BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two Iraqi local government officials who were kidnapped last week were found dead on the outskirts of Baghdad, officials said on Tuesday, accusing Shi‘ite militiamen of killing them in a sectarian power struggle that is playing out across Iraq.
The mayor of Khan Bani Saad, a mainly Sunni town 30 km (20 miles) northeast of Baghdad, and three local council members were kidnapped last Thursday by men wearing uniforms and driving security forces vehicles, officials and police said.
Two of them, both of whom were Shi‘ites, were released the next day, but the bodies of Mayor Saad al-Girtani and one council member, both Sunnis, were found blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs with gunshot wounds to the head, police and hospital sources said. Both appeared to have been tortured.
“The militia tried before to remove the mayor from his position, but they failed. Now after assassinating him, they succeeded and I‘m definitely sure the alternative one will be loyal to them,” said a local official from Khan Bani Saad, on condition of anonymity.
Iraq is in the throes of a sectarian war as Sunni Islamic State militants have taken swathes of territory, prompting a counter-offensive by Shi‘ite militias and a battered army that has suffered mass desertions and been weakened by corruption.
For Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, winning over Sunnis will be vital to any efforts to contain a sectarian conflict marked by almost daily kidnappings, execution-style killings and bombings.
Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, editing by Ned Parker and Robin Pomeroy