UPDATE: Assassination, car accident brings Iraqi candidate death count to five
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Another two Iraqi candidates have died in the run-up to the country’s May 12 elections, bringing the total death count to five.
Faruq Mohammed al-Zarzwr, a candidate in Nineveh Province, was killed by a group of armed men on Monday morning after the unknown attackers stormed his house in the town of Qayyara and opened fire on the university professor.
Zarzwr was a candidate for the National Coalition (al-Wataniya), led by current Vice-President of Iraq Ayad Allawi, which currently has 18 seats in the Iraqi Parliament.
In an online statement on Monday, the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for Zarzwr’s assassination. Earlier in April, IS released an audio tape warning that “all those who support or participate in the elections” would be a target. The extremist group stated it would strike polling stations and told Sunni Iraqis to stay clear of the polls or risk being killed.
Despite an online statement linking Zarzwr’s assassination to IS, the spokesperson for the Supreme Judicial Council, Judge Abdul Sattar Birqdar, confirmed that the murder of the candidate was a criminal offense and “not connected to terrorist crimes.”
Birqdar explained that “the crime occurred as a result of family differences,” adding that “the victim’s son confessed to killing his father for reasons of family differences.”
The Nineveh Police Office also confirmed what the Supreme Judicial Council’s statement said about the candidate’s death.
Meanwhile, Fawziya al-Jashma’i, a candidate from the State of Law Coalition, led by the former prime minister and current Vice-President of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, died on Monday in a car accident in Babylon Province.
Zarzwr and Jashma’i’s deaths come less than a week ahead of the Iraqi legislative elections. They are the fourth and fifth candidate to have died since the electoral campaign began on April 14.
Last week, Najm al-Hasnawi, a candidate from Baghdad, was gunned down in the city’s Mashtal neighborhood in a tribal dispute which turned violent. Hasnawi was a candidate of the State of Law Coalition, the largest Shia bloc in the Iraqi Parliament.
Earlier in April, Yasseen Majid al-Luaibi, a candidate for the Baghdad Alliance (a Sunni coalition), died of a heart attack shortly after getting into an altercation with his relatives in Iraq’s capital.
On April 14, the day electoral campaigning officially began, Hadi Hussein al-Aqabi, a candidate for the al-Hikma (Wisdom) Party in Wasit Province, died in a car accident as he was heading to Baghdad to participate in his party’s inaugural rally.
Over 7,000 candidates, representing different parties including from the Kurdistan Region, are competing to fill 329 seats in the Iraqi Parliament.
Since the start of the electoral campaign, many candidates have been the target of assassination attempts in Baghdad, Basra, and Kirkuk, where a candidate for the Turkmen Front recently survived a car bombing according to security sources.
The elections are the first following the defeat of IS and the fourth parliamentary elections since the fall of Saddam Hussein and his dictatorship in 2003.
Editing by Nadia Riva and Karzan Sulaivany