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KARBALA: The recent assassination of a writer in the middle of a street in Karbala has provoked indignation in Iraqi cultural circles.

The city’s police force said several fatal shots were fired at Alaa Mashzoub in front of his home on Saturday.

In a sign of the sensitivity surrounding the subject, the police immediately tasked a senior squad to investigate, and promised to find the perpetrators.

“This is killing words — free, honest and beautiful words,” fellow writer Ali Lefta Said said, in reaction to the murder.

On Sunday, intellectuals and artists from Karbala, around 100km south of Baghdad, staged a sit-in.

Ahmed Saadawi — whose novel “Frankenstein in Baghdad” has scored success beyond Iraq’s borders — hit out at the culprits on his Facebook page.

“You really have to be a coward to fire a gun at someone who only has words and dreams,” he wrote.

“Shame on the murderers — and shame on the authorities, if they don’t find and judge them immediately,” he added.

Tributes have poured in for the prolific novelist.

Mashzoub was well known in Karbala, whose historic districts he wove with care into his writing.

Parliament’s cultural commission has said it will monitor the police probe into his murder. But nobody has been willing to point the finger at potential suspects.

Late last Summer, the death of four high profile Iraqi women — including model and social media influencer Tara Fares, whose fatal shooting was caught on camera — sparked anger.

Official investigations into those deaths have failed to yield convictions or even publicly announced conclusions.

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