Head of Saddam tribe blown up by car bomb
AWJA, Iraq |
AWJA, Iraq (Reuters) - The head of Saddam Hussein's tribe was killed by a bomb planted on his vehicle north of Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.
The blast killed Sheikh Ali al-Neda as he traveled along a highway after leaving his home in the late Iraqi president's hometown of Awja.
It was Neda, a member of Iraq's minority Sunni Arab sect, who took possession of Saddam's body for burial after the Iraqi leader was executed in December 2006 for crimes against humanity. Gunmen shot dead Neda's brother in 2006.
The bomb appeared to have been fixed underneath Neda's car, said Major Hassan Emhimid, a police officer in the nearby town of Tikrit.
"Sheikh Neda was the victim of assassination. When he left his house there was a bomb in his car that killed him and a driver and wounded two of his guards," said Major Ahmed Subhi, head of a counter-terrorism unit in Salahuddin province.
Salahuddin Governor Hamad al-Qaisi imposed an indefinite curfew in Awja, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad. Police sealed off the town and searched for suspects.
"We condemn this assassination. We will pursue anyone who tries to undermine security and stability," Qaisi told Reuters.
"We will investigate until we capture the criminals."
Neda's supporters said he had no political affiliation.
On the first anniversary of Saddam's hanging, Neda, head of the Albu-Naser tribe, urged Iraqis to forget the past and work for unity.
"We have to build a future without revenge," he had said.
One of Saddam's cousins, Shabeeb al-Majid, was in no mood for reconciliation after Neda, 65, was blown up.
"We are not accusing anyone at the moment. But we will get revenge and kill 40 people in retaliation for the four (bomb victims)," said Majid, who was among a group of people offering condolences to Neda's relatives at his house.
Neda's armed guards held up photographs of him and Saddam.
He was buried in the Old Awja Cemetery beside one of his sons and Mahmoud, the brother who was killed. Hundreds of tribal leaders attended the burial.
"Saddam's execution was a tragedy for us and the killing of the sheikh was a tragedy as well," said Neda's cousin, Talal al-Nasiri.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have highlighted an improvement in security in Iraq that has led to sharp drops in violence five years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam. But U.S. commanders have said that the gains are fragile and reversible.
(Additional reporting by Khalid al-Ansary and Aws Qusay; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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