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Previously jailed Sunni official taken by gunmen in Baghdad

BAGHDAD--Gunmen traveling in 10 black SUVs seized a senior Sunni politician who had previously been jailed on terrorism charges from his home in Baghdad, police officers said Saturday.

It was not immediately clear if Riyadh al-Adhdah, the head of the Baghdad Provincial Council, was arrested by security forces or abducted late Friday, the two police officers said. Four of his bodyguards were also taken, according to a statement from the provincial council. The officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

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.

Al-Maliki discussed al-Adhdah's disappearance with Salim al-Jabouri, the Sunni speaker of parliament, at a meeting Saturday. The speaker called the disappearance a “problem” without saying whether al-Adhdah had been arrested or kidnapped. Sunnis have long 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 the 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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