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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Sunni clerics killed in Baghdad
Sadr City scene
Baghdad's Sadr City is one of the most lawless area in Iraq
Gunmen in Baghdad have killed two prominent clerics belonging to an influential Sunni Muslim group.

Muslim Scholars' Association member Sheikh Hazem Zeidi was shot dead at an isolated Sunni mosque in the Shia suburb of Sadr City on Sunday night.

Sheikh Muhammad Jadwa was gunned down on his way to noon prayers in the mixed al-Baya neighbourhood on Monday.

Baghdad has witnessed several killings of clerics since the 2003 war, fuelling fears of possible Sunni-Shia conflict.

We hope it is not an organised campaign to assassinate the Association's clerics
Association member
"After performing the night prayers at al-Sajjad Mosque, in Sadr City, [Sheikh Hazem] left in his car with two bodyguards," said a spokesmen for the association.

"A group of masked gunmen followed him in a private car and opened fire."

Mr Zeidi's role was to co-ordinate among Sunni clerics and other religious movements in Iraq, the association said.

He was also the imam, or prayer leader, at one of the 10 Sunni mosques reportedly located among the two million Shia inhabitants of the Sadr City slum.


Two bodyguards of were briefly taken hostage during the attack, which took place after evening prayers.

Mr Jadwa was reportedly shot as he entered Baya neighbourhood's Kawthar mosque in western Baghdad before noon prayers.

He was unarmed and had no security guards, said a mosque official.

"We hope it is not an organised campaign to assassinate the association's clerics," a source in the Muslim Scholars' Association is quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

The association is a conservative group that opposes the US military presence in Iraq, but has worked for the release of foreign hostages.

Killings of clerics from each side have caused great anger among their respective communities, in particular as the embattled Iraqi police have failed to investigate the crimes seriously, correspondents say.


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