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Top Sunni Arab Official Assassinated In Baghdad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Militants have killed a senior member of Iraq's main Sunni Arab party, the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), with a bomb planted under his car in Baghdad, the party said.

Faysal Abdullah al-Samarai was assassinated as he drove through the predominantly Sunni Arab district of Adhamiyah, northern Baghdad, late on March 18. He had been attending a celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

Samarai was an IIP deputy for a region covering half of Baghdad.

"The killing of al-Samarai represents an attempt to target Iraq's unity and cohesion. Those who made this assassination want to destroy the goodwill in the hearts of Iraqis," a statement on the IIP's website said.

The motives of those behind the attack are unclear.

At least one Al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Islamist group in Iraq has called for attacks on moderate Sunni politicians, an apparent attempt to end reconciliation efforts between Iraq's majority Shi'a, minority Sunnis, and other groups.

"There are still some terrorist groups that want to attack moderates to foster chaos. What astonishes us is that these groups are active now at a time that the security forces are supposed to have control," said Salim al-Juburi, an IIP leader.

Violence in Iraq has fallen to lows rarely seen since mid-2003, but militants still retain the ability to carry out frequent gun and bomb attacks.

On March 10, a suicide bomber killed at least 28 people in an attack on tribal leaders in western Baghdad, the second major attack in the capital in three days.

Politicians are common targets for assassination in Iraq, alongside doctors, academics, police, and the military.