Dozens Of Iraqis Killed in Reprisals
Monday, October 16, 2006
BAGHDAD, Oct. 15 -- Militias allied with Iraq's Shiite-led government roamed roads north of Baghdad, seeking out and attacking Sunni Arab targets Sunday, police and hospital officials said. The violence raised to at least 80 the number of people killed in retaliatory strikes between a Shiite city and a Sunni town separated only by the Tigris River.
The wave of killings around the Shiite city of Balad was the bloodiest in a surge of violence that has claimed at least 110 lives in Iraq since Saturday. The victims included 12 people who were killed in coordinated suicide bombings in the strategic northern oil city of Kirkuk.
"This has pushed us to the point that we must stop this sectarian government," Ali Hussein al-Jubouri, a Sunni farmer in Duluiyah, said as he searched for the body of a nephew reportedly killed in the violence around Balad.
The slaughter came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday renewed pledges by the Iraqi government to break up the militias, and as al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Arab insurgent groups declared a new Islamic republic in the western and central parts of the country.
The violence around Balad, a Shiite enclave in a largely Sunni region, began Friday with the kidnapping and beheading of 17 Shiite farmworkers from Duluiyah, a predominantly Sunni town. Taysser Musawi, a Shiite cleric in Balad, said Shiite leaders in the town appealed to a Baghdad office of Moqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric, to send militiamen to defend local Shiites and to take revenge. Sadr's political party is a member of a Shiite religious alliance that governs Iraq.
Shiite fighters responded in force, local police said. Witnesses said Shiite fighters began hunting down Sunnis, allegedly setting up checkpoints in the area to stop travelers and demand whether they were Shiite or Sunni.
By Sunday afternoon, 80 bodies were stacked in the morgue of the Balad hospital, the only sizable medical center in the region, physician Kamal al-Haidari said by telephone. Most of the victims had been shot in the head, he said. Other hospital officials said some of the bodies had holes from electric drills and showed other signs of torture. The majority of the victims were believed to be from Duluiyah.
The hospital received calls from residents who said more bodies were lying in the streets, but workers were unable to pick them up, Haidari said. Witnesses arriving at the hospital also reported seeing bodies in the roads, he said.
Most Sunni families fled Balad, 1st Lt. Bassim Hamdi of the city's police force said by telephone. He said armed outsiders wearing black, apparently Shiite militiamen, were patrolling the streets in pickup trucks. Four mortar rounds also hit the city Sunday but caused no casualties, he said.
Balad was calm by late afternoon, Hamdi said, but heavy gunfire continued outside town.
"The situation outside of Balad is really bad," the police lieutenant said.
Across the river, police Maj. Hussein Alwan said, commandos believed to be members of the Shiite Badr Organization entered Duluiyah. The organization, also known as the Badr Brigade, is a militia of the other largest Shiite religious party in Iraq's government, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.