Sunni activist professor killed in Iraq

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BAGHDAD, Iraq - A leading Iraqi academic and prominent hardline Sunni political activist was fatally shot by three gunmen Monday as he was leaving his Baghdad home, police said.
The killers escaped in a car after gunning down Essam al-Rawi, head of the University Professor's Union and a senior member of the influential Association of Muslim Scholars, according to police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq.
The association is a Sunni organization believed to have links to the insurgency raging against U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies. The group has boycotted elections and stood aside from the political process.
An association official confirmed the killing of al-Rawi, a geologist, saying he was behind the wheel of his car and had just left his home for the drive to work at Baghdad University accompanied by two bodyguards.
The gunmen drove in front of al-Rawi's car, forced it to stop, then sprayed it with automatic weapons fire, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisal. One of al-Rawi's bodyguards was killed and the other was wounded, the official said.
The association was independently investigating the killing and would issue a statement later, the official said.
Although al-Rawi was likely targeted because of his political views, Iraqi academics have increasingly fallen victim to the country's religious extremists and other violent groups. About 180 professors have been murdered and at least 3,250 have fled Iraq since the outbreak of widespread sectarian violence in February, the Higher Education Ministry said in August.
With law and order in free-fall, some professors have also been killed by students angered over poor grades or other grievances, or because of their past membership in the Baath Party of former dictator Saddam Hussein.