Bombings as religious minority leader killed

Baghdad, Iraq - Gunmen assassinated Sheikh Raad Mutar Saleh, a leader of the tiny sect of Sabeans, sometimes known as Mandeans, a small pre-Muslim Gnostic group which is thought to have links to Judaism and early Christianity.

The Sabeans are monotheistic, practice baptism and are mentioned in the Muslim Koran – along with Christians and Jews – as a “people of the book”.

Traditionally known as skilled silversmiths, Sabeans historically live in small numbers – fewer than 20,000 – in Iraq and Iran, although many have fled regional unrest and taken refuge in western countries.

Muta Saleh was shot dead in Suweira, 65km southeast of Baghdad in the Tigris river valley, police said.

Violence also continued elsewhere in Iraq, which is still gripped by mounting insurgent and militia bloodletting more than three-and-a-half years after a US invasion toppled former leader Saddam Hussein.