Iraqi security forces have arrested a prominent Sunni MP following a violent raid on his home, killing at least seven people including his brother and a number of his bodyguards.
Ahmed al-Alwani had been a vocal supporter of the protests in the province of Anbar against the supposed marginalisation of Sunnis by the Shia-majority government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He was reportedly arrested on charges of terrorism.
Security forces gathered outside Mr Alwani's residence in the city of Ramadi yesterday when guards of the MP opened fire, police said. More than a dozen people were injured in the raid, with reports that Mr Alwani's sister was one of those killed. A number of security forces personnel were wounded and one Iraqi soldier was among those killed, officials said.
Lieutenant-General Ali Ghaidan, commander of Iraqi ground forces, told state television that security forces had also tried to arrest Mr Alwani's brother Ali, who was accused of involvement in attacks that killed Iraqi soldiers in Anbar, but he was killed in the fighting.
Mr Alwani's parliamentary bloc, Iraqiya, demanded his release and denounced the arrest as politically motivated, claiming that it was intended to benefit the bloc's rivals in next year's national elections.
"The arrest of al-Alwani and the assassination of his brother are part of a campaign for the elections," wrote Sunni lawmaker Salman al-Jumaili. He claimed that the Shia-led government was "agitating sectarian tension regardless of the consequences on the future of the country".
Sunni protests were sparked in December last year after the arrest of bodyguards of the then finance minister Rafi al-Issawi, the highest-profile Sunni politician in the government.
Iraq has had an escalation in violence this year, especially since April when an army raid on a Sunni Arab anti-government protest camp near the northern town of Hawija killed dozens.
Mr Alwani had been a supporter of another protest camp on a highway in Ramadi – a camp which Mr Maliki had threatened to shut down stating that it had become a base for terrorists.