Iraqi PM confronts suspected killer of Karbala mayor and vows justice

Abeer Salim Al Khafaji was gunned down during municipal campaign and died in hospital

Mustafa Al Kadhimi (L), Iraq's Prime Minister, had face-to-face talks with a man suspected of killing Karbala’s mayor. AFP
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Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi called for retribution on Wednesday after confronting the suspected killer of the mayor of Karbala city.

Abeer Salim Al Khafaji was assassinated on Tuesday night after a gunman shot him three times in the chest. Mr Al Khafaji was supervising a municipal campaign and was accompanied by security forces in the city’s Al Mamlji area.

He died in hospital and his alleged killer was later arrested.

“The Prime Minister has stressed the need for the judiciary to take its role in retribution against the killer, to set an example to others,” a statement from Al Kadhimi's office said.

The suspected gunman was brought to the assassination site and was made to face Mr Al Kadhimi, who told him “no one is above the law”.

"We will be more severe with violators of the state and the law, and this incident will not go unnoticed," Mr Al Kadhimi said when confronting the killer, who was blindfolded.

The prime minister said "murderers and criminals will not escape punishment and just retribution will be the fate of anyone who spills Iraqi blood".

“No one is above the law and we will not allow chaos to prevail."

Mr Al Kadhimi said his government would continue its efforts towards “implementing law and security at a higher level than before in all governorates and cities”.

He visited Mr Al Khafaji’s family to offer his condolences and promised the killer would be brought to justice.

“The martyr Abeer Salim gave a lot to his governorate and was keen to perform his duty with honesty and what he started must be completed,” Mr Al Kadhimi told the family.

Iraq’s Interior Minister, Othman Al Ghanimi, on Wednesday ordered the arrest of security forces who accompanied Mr Al Khafaji during the campaign.

A street in Karbala has been named after Mr Al Khafaji.

Dozens of government officials, activists and reporters have been killed in recent months.

Since taking office in May 2020, Mr Al Kadhimi has pledged justice for activists and officials killed or abused by armed groups but no prosecutions have occurred.

Anti-government protesters have been demanding the removal of the political elite, the combating of corruption and justice for protesters killed since 2019.

The country's worst protests in decades broke out in October 2019 and continued for months, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis demanding jobs, improved services and the removal of the ruling elite, which they accused of corruption.

About 500 people were killed and the protests led to the resignation of then-prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

Updated: August 11, 2021, 3:32 PM