Published — Tuesday 15 January 2013
Last update 16 January 2013 1:01 am
FALLUJA, Iraq: A suicide bomber killed an influential Iraqi Muslim lawmaker and his bodyguard yesterday in Anbar province, where thousands of protesters have been rallying daily against Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.
Posing as a construction worker, the attacker targeted Efan Al-Esawi, a member of the Iraqiya bloc, who once helped organize a campaign against Al-Qaeda at the height of the war after the 2003 US-led invasion, police and local officials said.
No one claimed responsibility for the bombing but it may point to attempts by insurgents to fan tensions over the mass Muslim protests, which have revived worries of a slide back into the sectarian bloodletting of Iraq's recent past.
"One of the workers at the site went toward him, he thought he wanted something, the worker hugged him and then blew himself up," said Sadoun Ubaid, deputy head of Anbar provincial council.
"This man was targeted because he led the fight against Al-Qaeda. That is why they would target him."
The protests have become a serious test for Maliki since they erupted in late December after authorities arrested the bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafaie Al-Esawi, on terrorism charges.
Iraqi leaders said the arrests were part of an extended campaign to unfairly target their minority sect by security forces.