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Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Friday, 27 June 2008 15:37 UK

Top judge assassinated in Baghdad

Shiite Iraqi Muslims pray towards Mecca during Friday noon prayers at a mosque in Kadhimiyah, northern Baghdad on June 27, 2008
Professionals like judges have been targeted in the bitter sectarian fighting

A leading Iraqi judge has been ambushed and shot dead by gunmen in Baghdad.

Kamil al-Showaili, head of one of the capital's two appeals courts, was driving home in the east of the city when the attack happened.

Police said masked assailants used two vehicles to block the judge's path, before opening fire and driving away.

Mr Showaili, who was in his 50s, was one of the country's most important judges, charged with handing criminal cases for eastern Baghdad.

"He was one of the best judges in Iraq," Abdul Satar al-Birqadr, a spokesman for the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council, told Reuters news agency.

"He worked in this field for more than 20 years. It is very difficult to replace him," said Mr Birqadr, adding that the shooting was one of a series of killings of Iraqi professionals.

In January, gunmen killed Appeals Court Judge Amir Jawdat Naeib as he was driven to work in the west of the city.

Both judges were members of the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council which supervises the judiciary and nominates senior judicial officials.

Correspondents say professional people, such as judges, lawyers, and doctors, have often been singled out for attack in bitter sectarian fighting between Shia and Sunni Arabs.

Assassinations of prominent individuals have, however, decreased in recent months as US and Iraqi forces have cracked down on insurgents and lawlessness.





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