The coalition-backed police chief of this major southern Iraqi city was shot to death as he left a mosque after prayers, officials said Saturday.

Brig. Hamid Hadi Hassan al-Abe (searchwas leaving the al-Hussein mosque after Friday prayers when he was gunned down by assailants firing from several locations, police Maj. Kathim Mohsen Hamadi said.

The attackers escaped, Hamadi said. Several hundred men, many of them armed with rifles and pistols, turned out Saturday for the funeral service of al-Abe, who will be buried in the Shiite holy city of Najaf (search).

Hamadi said al-Abe had a good relationship with British occupation authorities, who are responsible for this city about 75 miles north of Basra (search).

Iraqis who work with the U.S.-led coalition have been targeted by insurgents, who are most active in the Sunni Muslim areas to the north and west of Baghdad.

However, Amarah is populated primarily by Shiite Muslims, who have been generally more accepting of the occupation because of their suffering under the former regime of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni.

"We can't accuse anyone right now," Hamadi said. "We face many problems here, mostly tribal problems. There is a shortage of security. Part of the problem is that some people consider people who cooperate with the coalition to be spies."