The Washington Post reports:
Gunmen pretending to be Iraqi security forces and U.S. soldiers killed at least 24 people here, shooting some and slitting others’ throats as they moved from house to house, officials and residents said Saturday.
The victims of the hour-long incident included women and children, but most were members of the Awakening, Sunni paramilitary forces also known as the Sons of Iraq that battled insurgents at the behest of the U.S. military.
The targeted killings were perhaps the most brutal since the horrific spiral of sectarian assassinations in 2006 and 2007 pulled Iraq into a state of civil war. With American forces no longer patrolling Iraqi cities, the killings also reinforced a sense of abandonment among Arab Sunnis, whose tribes defied insurgents to join forces with the United States despite their distrust of the Shiite-led government.
Meanwhile, AFP reports:
Iraq’s Sadrists concluded an unofficial two-day ballot on Saturday over who should be the country’s leader, after the bloc’s strong showing in last month’s election gave it kingmaker status.
The “referendum”, which has no legal authority, comes as sitting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and ex-premier Iyad Allawi battle to form a government, with neither holding enough seats to claim a parliamentary majority.
“The referendum has concluded and the participation rate was very high,” said Saleh al-Obeidi, the Najaf-based spokesman for the movement.
“The counting process has already started in the provinces, and in the next few days we will release the results.”
Both Maliki and Allawi were on the unofficial ballot, which also included the former’s predecessor Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi and Jaafar al-Sadr, the son of an ayatollah who founded Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party and was murdered by Saddam’s regime in 1980, are also candidates, while ballot sheets also included space for voters to write the name of their chosen nominee.
Although the plebiscite was nominally open to all Iraqis, the vast majority of voters are likely to have been Sadrist backers.