Blast belt in Iraq kills six at funeral
Key cleric hints at boycott over ballot
BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber killed at least six mourners at a funeral yesterday for a member of a prominent tribe with ties to both security forces and insurgents in western Iraq, a police official said.
The bomber detonated an explosive belt inside a funeral tent in the mostly Sunni area of Haditha, about 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. At least 15 people were injured, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The funeral was for a member of the al-Jaghaifa tribe, which is split between members of the police and military and supporters of the Sunni insurgency.
In southern Iraq, meanwhile, the country’s most senior Shi’ite cleric threatened to call for a boycott of January’s parliamentary elections if the voting system includes only the parties and not the names of the candidates.
Iraqi lawmakers are considering having the Jan. 16 ballots list only the party blocs, but Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wants an “open list’’ system because he believes it will encourage voter participation. An official in Sistani’s office said the cleric may “not play a big role in the political process’’ - which is widely interpreted as a warning he could call for a boycott. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Such a call by Sistani would probably bring massive no-shows at the polls and raise questions about the election’s legitimacy.
In northern Iraq, recent violence and abductions prompted Kirkuk’s archbishop yesterday to demand government protection against what he has called religious-driven “terrorism.’’
A least 10 Christian families have left Kirkuk in recent weeks, fearing kidnap-for-ransom gangs that have turned their sights on Christians in one of Iraq’s most ethnically diverse cities.
“We think there is a political nature to these kidnappings, which is meant to force us to leave Iraq,’’ Archbishop Lewis Sako said.
On Sunday the body of Imad Elia, an employee at Kirkuk’s health directorate, was found in a field south of the city. He had been shot in the chest. Elia was kidnapped two days before, but his family was unable to pay the ransom demands, Sako said.