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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Software Solution Technician - Peterborough - up to £21,000

£20000 - £21000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Solutio...

Supply teachers needed- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Supply teachers needed for va...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed Rand...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering