Middle East

Iraq election candidate kidnapped as attacks kill 16

Members of Shi'ite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, who supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, carry the coffin of a fellow fighter during his funeral in Najaf May 17, 2014. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

BAGHDAD: Militants kidnapped an Iraqi election candidate Sunday as attacks in Baghdad and northern Iraq killed 16 people and officials prepared to announce the results of last month's vote.

The latest unrest is part of a year-long surge in bloodshed that has fuelled fears Iraq is slipping back into the all-out sectarian conflict that left tens of thousands dead in 2006 and 2007.

In the northern Baghdad neighbourhood of Jamila, gunmen opened fire on Rahman Abdulzahra al-Jazairi early on Sunday morning while he was near his home, wounding his father and brother, police said.

The militants then snatched Jazairi, the general secretary of Hezbollah Warithun, an offshoot of the main Hezbollah party in Iraq.

Jazairi's party is not expected to win any seats in parliament following the April 30 vote, the results of which are due to be released later Sunday or on Monday, election commission officials say.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the kidnapping, but Jazairi's party said on Facebook that security camera footage had helped identify the militants behind the incident and said security forces were working to release him.

The abduction is the first incident of its kind since the election, the run-up to which was plagued by attacks on campaign rallies and candidates, but no reported kidnappings.

The results have been delayed because of a litany of complaints, according to the election commission.

Iraq's political parties have nevertheless already begun manoeuvering to build alliances in order to get a head start on forming a government.

Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking a third term, but faces criticism from opponents who say he has consolidated power and who blame him for a marked deterioration in security.

Elsewhere on Sunday, attacks killed 16 people in and around Baghdad and north of the capital in the restive provinces of Salaheddin and Nineveh, security and medical officials said, the latest in a surge of bloodshed that has left more than 3,500 people dead this year.

The authorities have trumpeted wide-ranging operations against militants, the latest of which they say killed 85 insurgents on Sunday, but levels of violence have remained at their worst since 2008.

The government has blamed external factors such as the civil war in neighbouring Syria, but diplomats and analysts say Maliki and other Shiite leaders must do more to reach out to disgruntled Sunnis to undermine support for militancy.





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