Sunni Iraqis targeted in revenge killings

The savage sectarian war in Iraq reached new depths of barbaric violence yesterday with worshippers being dragged out of mosques and burnt alive as a wave of killings swept across the country.

The ones set alight as they pleaded for mercy were Sunnis, victims of a pitiless revenge for the suicide bombings at Sadr City 24 hours earlier which had left 215 people dead and 253 injured in the single deadliest attack since the US-led invasion.

Even as the dead from the massacre were being buried, the grim vow made by Shia fighters of exacting blood for blood was under way. Twenty-two people were killed and 26 injured at Tal Afar, north-west of Baghdad. Nine more people were killed in a mortar attack on a Sunni area in the capital, and rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the Abu Hanifa mosque, one of the holiest Sunni shrines in the country, which had already been damaged in retaliatory action following the Sadr City bombings.

The attack on the mosques and the burnings that followed, took place in plain sight of an Iraqi army post. Yet the soldiers did nothing. That claim came not from Sunni groups, but Captain Jamil Hussein of the Iraqi police, underlining the bitter divisions within this society.

The perpetrators were said to be members of the Mehdi Army, led by the radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose main powerbase, Sadr City, was blasted apart. As well as killing 18 people and injuring 24 others, four mosques were burnt in the attack at Hurriya, where Sunni and Shia have lived together in comparative amity before the "liberation" by the US and Britain.

Ethnic cleansing of the area had started in the summer when the Mehdi Army had started taking over property and most of the Sunni residents had fled. Capt Hussein said the gunmen had attacked and burnt the mosques and continued burning other buildings until US troops arrived.

Omar al-Hassani, who fled the area, said: "They put kerosene on men and burnt them. They were determined to kill. Nothing would have stopped them."

Another resident, Imad Aldin Hashemi, said: "They attacked the mosques with rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire. The attacks began at midday. I know there were two women and a child who died of smoke inhalation in burning houses." The Shia fighters then moved on to the el-Amel district where they gutted another mosque and killed two guards. Two other Sunni mosques in west Baghdad were also attacked, said the police.

Meanwhile the political process continued to unravel after Sadr supporters in parliament threatened to boycott proceedings if the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki proceeded with his planned meeting with President George Bush in Amman next week. American and Iraqi government forces had carried out a raid in Sadr City just hours before the Sunni attack during which six people were killed. Mr Maliki is heavily dependent on the support of the Sadr bloc, which has 30 MPs and six ministers in its ranks.

Qusai Abdul-Wahib, a senior Sadr supporter, said: "We say occupation forces are fully responsible for these acts, and we call on these forces to set a timetable for their withdrawal."

Last night Baghdad International Airport remained closed and the government continued with a 24-hour curfew. But as darkness fell the sound of gunfire reverberated around the capital, and the sky was lit up by burning buildings.

Voices
Numbers of complaints about unwanted calls have trebled in just six months
voices
News
people
Arts & Entertainment
Picture of innocence: Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington in ‘Derek’
tvReview: The insights of Ricky Gervais's sweet and kind character call to mind Karl Pilkington's faux-naïf podcast observations
Life & Style
Looking familiar: The global biometrics industry is expected to grow to $20bn by 2020
tech
VIDEO
News
Higher expectations: European economies are growing but the recovery remains weak
newsThe eurozone crisis has tipped many into despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues economist Philippe Legrain
Arts & Entertainment
Tangled up in blue: Singer-songwriter Judith Owen
musicAnd how husband Harry Shearer - of Spinal Tap and The Simpsons fame - helped her music flourish
Sport
Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the opening goal
sportReal Madrid 1 Bayern Munich 0: Germans will need their legendary self-belief to rescue Champions League tie in second leg
Arts & Entertainment
Paul Weller: 'I am a big supporter of independent record stores but the greedy touts making a fast buck off genuine fans is disgusting'
music
Arts & Entertainment
William Shakespeare's influence on English culture is still strongly felt today, from his plays on stage to words we use everyday
arts
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes has claimed supporters understand the need to look at
sportScot thanks club staff and fans, but gives no specific mention of players
News
Foster and Hedison have reportedly been dating since last summer
peopleOscar-winner said to be 'totally in love' with Alexandra Hedison
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
Life & Style
Balancing act: City workers at the launch of Cityfathers
lifeThe organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group boasting more than 3,000 members
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Construction Solicitor – Surrey

Excellent Salary Package: Austen Lloyd: This is a rare high level opportunity ...

Construction Solicitor NQ+ Manchester

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: This is an excellent opportunity within...

Corporate Finance

£80000 - £120000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: US QUALI...

Banking / Finance Associate - City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: Banking / Finance Associate - We have an exce...

Day In a Page

Migrants in Britain a decade on: The Poles who brought prosperity

Migrants in Britain a decade on

The Poles who brought prosperity
Philippe Legrain: 'The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - we need a European Spring'

Philippe Legrain: 'We need a European Spring'

The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues the economist
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj
Judith Owen reveals how husband Harry Shearer - star of This Is Spinal Tap and The Simpsons - helped her music flourish

Judith Owen: 'How my husband helped my music flourish'

Her mother's suicide and father's cancer also informed the singer-songwriter's new album, says Pierre Perrone
The online lifeline: How a housing association's remarkable educational initiative gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression

Online lifeline: Housing association's educational initiative

South Yorkshire Housing Association's free training courses gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression
Face-recognition software: Is this the end of anonymity for all of us?

Face-recognition software: The end of anonymity?

The software is already used for military surveillance, by police to identify suspects - and on Facebook
Train Kick Selfie Guy is set to scoop up to $250,000 thanks to his viral video - so how can you cash in on your candid moments?

Viral videos: Cashing in on candid moments

Train Kick Selfie Guy Jared Frank could receive anything between $30,000 to $250,000 for his misfortune - and that's just his cut of advertising revenue from being viewed on YouTube
The world's fastest elevators - 20 metres per second - are coming soon to China

World's fastest elevators coming soon to China

Whatever next? Simon Usborne finds out from Britain's highest authority on the subject
Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture that causes men to miss out on seeing their children

Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture

The organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills, a chief operating officer who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group that now boasts more than 3,000 members
Ian Herbert: Manchester United broken so badly they need a big personality to carry out overhaul

United broken so badly they need a big personality to carry out overhaul

The size of the rebuild needed at Old Trafford is a task way beyond Ryan Giggs, says Ian Herbert
Mark Schwarzer: Chelsea keeper aims to seize unlikely final chance

Mark Schwarzer: Chelsea keeper aims to seize unlikely final chance

The 41-year-old calmed his nerves to perform a classic 'Superman act' when he replaced Petr Cech in Madrid. One clean sheet later, he is now determined to become a club hero
Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?