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Iraqi Sunni lawmakers to boycott government session over sectarian violence

Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Sunni lawmakers and ministers decided to boycott Tuesday’s parliament and government sessions to protest violence targeting their community in a town east of Baghdad, the independent al-Sumaria TV channel reported on Monday.A coalition of Sunni Arab parliament members took the decision after a meeting chaired by parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, who is also the most senior representative of the community in the Iraqi state, the channel said, citing lawmaker Badr al-Fahl. Anti-Shi’ite bombings claimed by Islamic State on Jan. 11 in the town of Muqdadiya triggered retaliatory attacks on the Sunni community, leaving an unknown number of people killed.

Police have not yet announced a casualty toll for the anti-Sunni violence in Muqdadiya. At least 23 people were killed and 51 wounded in a twin blast in an area frequented by Shi’ite militia fighters of the town on Jan. 11, according to security sources.

“The parliamentary and ministerial blocs representing the (Sunni) Forces Coalition ... has decided to withdraw from the government session of Tuesday and also the parliamentary session because of the events in Muqdadiya,” parliament member Fahl said in an interview with al-Sumaria. Addressing a news conference on Sunday, Jabouri reported “retaliatory operations targeting journalists and innocent people and places of worship,” in Muqdadiya, without giving further details.The Iraqi government is led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shi’ite politician.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Jonathan Oatis