Shiite militiamen kill 70 at Iraq Sunni mosque
AFP and AP
August 24, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
BAGHDAD/BAQUBA, Iraq--Shiite militiamen gunned down 70 people in an apparent revenge attack at an Iraqi Sunni mosque Friday, as Washington declared the beheading of an American journalist a “terrorist attack.”
The shooting in Diyala province will increase already significant anger among Iraq's Sunni Arab minority with the Shiite-led government, undermining an anti-militant drive that requires Sunni cooperation to succeed.
Army and police officers said the attack on the Musab bin Omair Mosque came after Shiite militiamen were killed in clashes, while other sources said it followed a roadside bomb near one of their patrols.
Doctors and the officers put the toll from the attack, in which worshippers were sprayed with machinegun fire, at 70 dead and 20 wounded.
Two officers had earlier blamed IS for the attack, but the preponderance of accounts point to Shiite militiamen.
The government turned to militiamen to bolster its flagging forces during the IS offensive, sparking a resurgence of groups involved in brutal sectarian killings in past years that will be difficult to dislodge.
'We found a massacre'
Ibrahim Aziz Ali, whose 25-year-old nephew was among those killed, told AFP he and other residents heard gunfire and rushed to the mosque, where they were fired on by snipers.
Five vehicles with images of revered Shiite Imam Hussein were parked at the mosque, Ali said, adding that residents clashed with the militiamen who withdrew when the Iraqi army arrived.
“We found a massacre” at the mosque, he said.
Ali said he hoped for justice from the courts, but if it is not forthcoming, “we will take our right by our hands.”