Shi'ite truck drivers executed in Iraq
25 July 2013, 17:30
Kirkuk - Dozens of Sunni militants set up a roadblock on
a highway north of Baghdad early on Thursday, stopped trucks, checked IDs and
then summarily executed 14 Shi’ite drivers, officials said.
The attack was reminiscent of the darkest days of the
Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian bloodshed in Iraq in 2006-2007, when thousands of
people were killed due to their religious affiliation or forced to abandon
their homes under threat of death.
Lingering tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites have been
inflamed by persistent violence in Iraq and the civil war in neighbouring
Syria, and there are growing fears that Iraq is slipping back toward all-out
Two local officials said about 150 militants carried out
a co-ordinated operation during the night that included the highway killings,
in the area of Sulaiman Bek, a town north of Baghdad.
The militants began by attacking the town itself with
mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons late on
That attack drew security forces away from the highway
connecting Baghdad with north Iraq, after which a group of around 40 militants
broke off and set up the checkpoint.
They only maintained it for about half an hour but were
able to stop dozens of truck drivers, killing 14 execution-style who were Shi’ites.
"These criminals belong to what is called the
Islamic State of Iraq, and they targeted Shi’ite drivers and left the
Sunnis," local official Shalal Abdul Baban told AFP, referring to an al-Qaeda
"It was killing by ID," he said.
Iraqi identification cards list a person's name and place
of birth, from which their religious affiliation can be surmised.
The entire operation including the attack on the town, in
which at least one person was wounded, lasted for about three hours, after
which the militants withdrew.
Sulaiman Bek was briefly seized by militants in late
April, but the assailants later withdrew under a deal worked out by tribal
leaders and government officials, allowing security forces to move back in.
The seizure of the town came amid a surge of violence
that began on 23 April, when security forces moved in against anti-government
protesters near the northern town of Hawijah, sparking clashes that left 53
Dozens more died in a wave of subsequent unrest including
revenge attacks against security forces.
The highway killings come just days after a highly-co-ordinated
assault by militants on two Iraqi prisons that saw hundreds of inmates escape,
an operation claimed by an al-Qaeda front group.
The militants attacked prisons in Abu Ghraib, west of
Baghdad, and Taji, north of the capital, with mortar rounds, bombs and gunfire
beginning on Sunday night, sparking clashes with security forces that lasted
for 10 hours.
At least 500 prisoners, including senior al-Qaeda
members, escaped during, while at least 20 security forces members and 21
prisoners died in the unrest.
Interpol said in an online statement on Wednesday that the
escapes "constituted a major threat to global security", and that it
had issued a regional security alert at Iraq's request.
The latest attacks are indicative of the growing reach of
militants in Iraq, and of the rapidly-deteriorating security situation in the
With the latest violence, more than 680 people have been
killed in unrest in July, making it the deadliest month in a year marked by
Iraq has faced years of attacks by militants, but
analysts say widespread discontent among members of its Sunni Arab minority,
which the government has failed to address, has fuelled the surge in unrest