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Attacks kill 7 in Iraq, including MP candidate

BAGHDAD (AP) — Gunmen in Iraq shot to death a Shiite politician running for parliament in the upcoming elections in April, one of seven people killed in attacks across the country on Friday, officials said.

Hamza al-Shimmari, who was on the list of the Ahrar party — which is loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — for the April 30 vote, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad's western Ghazaliyah neighborhood, police officials said.

The attack came as al-Qaida-led militants are battling for control of mainly Sunni areas to the west of the Iraqi capital in a key test of the Shiite-led government's ability to maintain security in the country more than two years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

In other violence on Friday, a car bomb killed four people and wounded 28 on a commercial street in the northern town of Tuz Khormato, according to the mayor, Shalal Abdoul. Tuz Khormato, a frequent flashpoint for violence, sits in a band of territory contested by Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen about 200 kilometers (130 miles) north of Baghdad.

In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen shot and killed two members of the Shabak minority in a drive-by shooting, said police and hospital officials. The Shabak are small ethnic minority, many of whose members follow an offshoot of Islam. Most live in villages east of Mosul, the provincial capital of the ethnically mixed Ninevah province that is predominantly Sunni Muslim.

Medics in local hospital confirmed the casualty figures in Friday's attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Violence has escalated in Iraq over the past year in relentless near-daily waves of attacks, bombings and shootings. On Thursday, a string of car bombs hit commercial areas in Baghdad, killing at least 13 people. And on Wednesday, 34 people were killed in multiple explosions, mainly in the heart of Baghdad.

Last year, the country saw the highest death toll since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to United Nations figures. The U.N. said violence killed 8,868 last year in Iraq.

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