BAGHDAD: Gunmen attacked Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Al Mutlak’s convoy in the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad yesterday, killing a guard and wounding at least five, officials said.
The attack on one of the country’s most senior Sunni Arab politicians comes less than three weeks before a contentious parliamentary election, the first since American troops left, which will be a major test for security forces.
“Mr Mutlak is safe and was not hurt,” an assistant to the deputy premier, who was travelling in the convoy, said. The identity of the attackers was not immediately clear.
While an interior ministry official said only that gunmen attacked the convoy, Mutlak’s assistant specifically blamed the army.
“We were the target of an assassination attempt by the army who opened fire on us, and the bodyguards responded in the same way,” the assistant said, without elaborating.
There is widespread anger among Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, which complains of being marginalised and mistreated by the Shiite-led government and security forces.
The attack comes ahead of an April 30 general election, which Mutlak’s list is contesting.
UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov has warned that campaigning for the election “will be highly divisive”.
“Everyone is ratcheting it up to the maximum, and you could see this even before officially the campaign started,” Mladenov said. “I would hope that it would be more about issues, and how the country deals with its challenges, but at this point it’s a lot about personality attacks,” he said.
Political analyst and parliamentary candidate Tareq Al Maamuri has said that “violence will increase during the election campaign, as well as the settling of accounts”.