KERBALA, Iraq (REUTERS) - A motorcycle gunman shot dead an Iraqi novelist close to his house in the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Kerbala on Saturday, police and witnesses said.
Alaa Mashzoub, 50, was on his way home when he was shot multiple times, police said late on Saturday. It was unclear what the motive was and no group has claimed responsibility, they added.
"The cultural scene has lost one of its special authors and creators," Iraq's Culture and Tourism Minister Abdul Amir al-Hamdani said in a statement on Sunday (Feb 3).
Mashzoub was active in local Kerbala civil society.
"Today, we are confronted by an immoral campaign aimed at eliminating culture and innovation," mourner Hameed al-Hilali said at Mashzoub's funeral on Sunday.
He did not say who be believed to be behind the attack.
Men carried Mashzoub's coffin, draped in an Iraqi flag, along a busy main road in Kerbala and others waved banners calling him a "martyr".
Iraq's writers union condemned the shooting and blamed security forces for not doing enough to protect intellectuals.
"The union holds the central and local government fully responsible, for they have failed to maintain public safety," it said in a statement.
Mashzoub wrote several novels and short story collections that won local and regional literary awards.