BAQUBA, Iraq — Two Sunni Arab imams were brutally killed on Monday in Iraq, including one who was decapitated and had his head planted on a power pole, in attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda, military officials said.
The slayings in the province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, were against anti-Qaeda preachers who regularly railed against the terror network during Friday sermons.
"At around 2:00 pm (1100 GMT), armed Al-Qaeda members captured Sheikh Abdullah Shakur while he was in Saadiyah market," said a Diyala military command officer who declined to be identified, referring to the central town.
"They returned an hour later with his head and attached it to an electricity post."
Shakur, imam of Saadiyah's mosque, had received several death threats from Al-Qaeda, who had demanded that he leave the town, which is home to large Sunni, Shiite and Kurd populations.
The town, located about 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of the Diyala provincial capital Baquba, was an Al-Qaeda stronghold during Iraq's sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007.
According to the Diyala military officer, in the village of Al-Bushaheen, 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Baquba, gunmen burst into the home of Sheikh Hashim Arif at about 3:00 am (0000 GMT), dragged him to his garden and shot him dead in front of his family.
Arif was the imam of Bushaheen's town mosque.
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