Iraqi Sunni Muslim lawmaker Ifan al-Issawi was killed in a “terrorist” suicide attack during an opposition demonstration, the Interior Ministry said.
Issawi, a member of the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya parliamentary bloc, was killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up after embracing the politician during a demonstration in the city of Falluja, west of Baghdad, according to a ministry statement. Issawi and the suicide bomber were killed instantly and a number of other people were wounded, it said.
Violence and political clashes in Iraq have increased since the end of 2011 when the U.S. pulled out the last of the troops it deployed since the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. Sunni and Kurdish members of the government have boycotted Cabinet sessions since Jan. 8, and demonstrations have spread to eight regions in Iraq to demand that Shiite Muslim Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki share more power. Followers of Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr have also criticized Maliki’s government.
Issawi’s killing comes a day after unidentified gunmen ambushed and killed Mohamed Abdrabbu, a tribal leader helping to organize protests against Maliki, in the northern city of Mosul, al-Sumaria News reported, citing security officials.
The slain lawmaker is from the same tribe as Minister of Finance Rafih al-Issawi, who survived an assassination attempt Jan. 13 when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device west of Baghdad. The minister had complained last month that Maliki was responsible for the arrest of his security team by what he called a “militia.”
Maliki’s opponents have demanded the release of prisoners. The government has freed 335 detainees since Jan. 7, according to a ministerial committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani.
The opposition has also called for a general amnesty and the revocation of laws they say are being used to target Sunnis accused of being terrorists or members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, which has been banned since the U.S.-led invasion.
Government soldiers clashed for the first time with Kurdish forces on Nov. 16, leaving one person dead. The Kurds have since halted crude exports amid a standoff with the federal government over distribution of oil revenue.
Iraq holds the world’s fifth-biggest crude reserves, according to BP Plc statistics that include Canada’s oil sands.