An Iraqi Member of Parliament, Aifan Saadoun from the Anbar Province, and his bodyguards were killed on Tuesday in a suicide attack in Falluja, Al Arabiya reported.
Posing as a construction worker, the attacker targeted Aifan Saadoun al-Essawi, a member of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc who once helped organize a campaign against al-Qaeda at the height of the war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, police and local officials said.
Since late December, 2012, protesters in the Sunni stronghold of Anbar have sustained demonstrations against the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. In response, Maliki’s government closed the Teraibeel border crossing, a vital commercial thoroughfare, in the western province of Anbar.
The aim was to silence the demonstrators, who accused the prime minister of marginalizing Sunnis. Many demonstrators also tapped into Arab Spring sentiments by demanding the downfall of the regime.
Before his death, Saadoun said that Maliki’s closing of theTeraibeel crossing to Jordan was wrong and can be described as an act of war against Anbar and the Sunni people in the country.
“The closure of Teraibeel crossing is disastrous for us, and this is like imposing sanctions against the people of Anbar,” he told Al Arabiya.
“This is a declaration of war against the Sunnis and the province of Anbar. I urged the parliament to form an emergency session to discuss security and the closure of the crossing which I believe is a big mistake and shouldn’t be happening,” he added.
No one claimed responsibility for the bombing but it may point to attempts by insurgents to fan tensions over the mass Sunni 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, a Sunni Muslim, on terrorism charges.
Sunni leaders said the arrests were part of an extended campaign to unfairly target their minority sect by security forces. Many Sunnis feel they have been sidelined from power-sharing by the Shiite Muslim-led Baghdad government.