Deadly raid on Sunni village renews fear of sectarian violence in Iraq

Concern over a fresh round of sectarian violence in Iraq escalated this weekend after gunmen dressed in military uniforms stormed a Sunni Muslim village south of Baghdad and killed 24 people overnight Saturday.

By , McClatchy Newspapers

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    Iraqi Awakening Council members, Sunnis who turned against al-Qaida and now help Iraqi forces provide security, patrol in the Azamiyah area of north Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday. Gunmen wearing Iraqi military uniforms raided homes in a Sunni village south of Baghdad, killing 24 people, including five women.
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Gunmen dressed in Iraqi army uniforms stormed three houses overnight Saturday in a Sunni Muslim village south of Baghdad and killed 24 people, including five women, Iraqi authorities said.

Most of the slain villagers belonged to "Awakening" groups, the bands of US-backed Sunni fighters who helped in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq. The attack occurred in Al Bu Saifi village south of Baghdad.

"Terrorists wearing Iraqi army uniforms and using SUVs stormed three houses of relatives, most of them are members of the local Awakening council," said a ranking officer in Iraq's Ministry of Interior who asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media. "They took men and women out, handcuffed them with metal handcuffs, and executed them."

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Iraqi authorities estimated the number of attackers to be 10 and said the raid started at 10 p.m. Friday and lasted for four hours.

"We detained 17 suspects and imposed a curfew in the area" said Qassim Atta, the spokesman for Baghdad operations of the Iraqi army. He said that most of the victims were members of Iraqi security forces and the Awakening group.

Atta said the Iraqi army also found seven people handcuffed and freed them. Iraqi authorities also found one of the cars the gunmen used.

"The Iraqi army is embarrassed, and they are trying to find the killers fast, this is one of the biggest executions in Baghdad, it is a big failure for all security efforts," Atta said.

Maj. Mohammed al Askari, a spokesman of the Defense Ministry, said villagers told Iraqi soldiers that the gunmen came from a nearby village. He said 25 suspects had been arrested, and that some had confessed to committing the attack.

He said the ministry had also investigated how the gunmen could have gotten through nearby checkpoints but hadn't reached any conclusions yet.

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