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Iraqi leaders rally after lawmaker slain

BAGHDAD – The government Saturday blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for killing a prominent Sunni lawmaker as leaders across the sectarian divide rallied together, deploring the murder and pledging to prevent a new wave of religious violence that once plunged the country to the brink of civil war.

Harith al-Obeidi, leader of the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, and his bodyguard were shot dead Friday as they left a Baghdad mosque after prayers. The gunman died when he triggered a grenade as he was chased by police and mosque guards.

No group claimed responsibility for the brazen attack, which could threaten efforts to reconcile the country’s rival ethnic and religious communities.

The Interior Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, said evidence so far pointed to al-Qaida in Iraq, a Sunni terror network that frequently targets fellow Sunnis who speak out in favor of national reconciliation.

Whoever was responsible, the slaying of a figure who had been prominent in Sunni political circles for years raised the specter of renewed tit-for-tat sectarian killings.