BAGHDAD (AP) — Gunmen in Iraq seized and later released a prominent Sunni politician, officials said Saturday, as confusion remained over who abducted the lawmaker.
Riyadh al-Adhadah, head of the Baghdad Provincial Council, returned to his home a day after gunmen abducted him and four of his bodyguards, said Ghalib al-Zamili, a member of the council. The bodyguards also were released, according to a police officer who declined to be named because he is not authorized to brief journalists.
It was not immediately clear if al-Adhdah was arrested by security forces or abducted. In 2012 al-Adhdah, a medical doctor and member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, was imprisoned for eight months on terrorism charges. He has maintained his innocence.
The incident comes at a time of mounting sectarian tensions, with Sunni militants having seized vast swaths of northern and western Iraq and Shiite militias mobilized to help the beleaguered armed forces fight back. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, is looking to secure a third four-year term despite widespread calls to step aside over the crisis.
Earlier Saturday, Al-Maliki discussed al-Adhdah's disappearance with Salim al-Jabouri, the Sunni speaker of parliament. The speaker called the disappearance a "problem" without elaborating. Sunnis long have complained of being unfairly targeted by security forces, and their discontent with al-Maliki's rule is seen as a central cause of the country's unrest.
Al-Maliki's security forces have targeted prominent Sunni politicians in the past, alleging links to terrorism. Shortly after the last U.S. troops withdrew in 2011, security forces tried to arrest Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges, forcing him to eventually flee to exile in Turkey. Al-Hashemi, who was later convicted in absentia and sentenced to death, has denied the allegations.
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