Sunni mosques firebombed in Iraq

Shiite militiamen allegedly attack Sunni mosques in Iraq after DAESH terrorist group claims responsibility for deadly attacks on Shiites

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Residents gather at the site of a car bomb blast in New Baghdad, January 12, 2016.

At least seven Sunni mosques and dozens of shops in eastern Iraq were firebombed on Tuesday, security sources and local officials said, a day after 23 people were killed there in two blasts claimed by the DAESH terrorist group.

Ten people were also shot and killed in Muqdadiya, 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad, security and hospital sources said. The attacks occurred in the central districts of Mualimeen, Asri and Orouba, the security sources said.

Witnesses said some of the those killed had been shot inside their homes or dragged into the street and executed by gunmen wearing black and camouflage uniforms.

Police sources and local residents said the gunmen were patrolling Muqdadiya and warning families through loudspeakers to leave the city or face death.

Officials tried on Tuesday to head off further violence, condemning the mosque attacks as well as Monday's bombings which DAESH said had targeted Shiites.

Abdul Lateef al Himayim, head of Iraq's government body overseeing Sunni religious sites, called them "a desperate attempt to destroy Iraqi unity", while the United Nations warned in a statement the mosque bombings could "take the country back into the dark days of sectarian strife".

Haqqi al Jabouri, a member of the local council in Diyala province where Muqdadiya is located, said both types of attacks hurt the social fabric of the community. He blamed "undisciplined (Shiite) militias" for burning the mosques.

Shiite militias were crucial in keeping DAESH from overrunning Baghdad and southern Shiite shrines during their lightning advance across the Syrian border in 2014, and have supported Iraqi forces pushing back the militants, including from parts of Diyala.

Militia elements have been accused of human rights abuses against Sunnis, allegations the groups have repeatedly denied or blamed on rogue members.

Amal Omran, a Shiite member of the Diyala council, blamed the mosque attacks on "infiltrators" seeking to smear the image of the militias.

Two Iraqi journalists were also killed on Tuesday outside Baquba, Diyala's provincial capital 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, according to police, a security official and their network Sharqiya TV.

They said the men had been turned back from a checkpoint near Muqdadiya run by a Shiite militia. On their way back to Baquba, gunmen sprayed their vehicle with automatic gunfire.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi condemned a separate attack on Monday at a mall in a predominantly Shiite district of Baghdad that killed 18 people. He called it "a desperate attempt by terrorist gangs after our forces' victories in Ramadi and other areas".

The Iraqi government last month claimed victory against DAESH in the western city of Ramadi, and has slowly pushed them back in other areas.

However, DAESH still controls large swathes of Iraq's north and west, and they regularly target Shiite districts and security forces in the capital and elsewhere.

TRTWorld, Reuters