Sectarian killings return to Baghdad as war rages elsewhere

The Washington Post reports: The burial of Omar Abed Hammoudi was a furtive affair, conducted in haste in the far corner of a cemetery filled with those who died in the last round of bloodletting in Baghdad.

The circumstances of his death suggested that the killings have started again. Snatched from his home by masked and uniformed men in a mostly Shiite neighborhood, Hammoudi, who was Sunni, was found dumped outside a mosque the following day, strangled and with a bullet wound to his head — a sequence of events that chillingly recalled the slaughter of the 2005-07 civil war.

“He was killed because of his sect,” said Hammoudi’s brother, Ahmed, as he hurried out of the graveyard this month with a small group of mourners, too afraid to speak within sight of the nearby security forces, who are deemed loyal to the Shiite-led government.

In the weeks since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — which on Sunday said it would now be known simply as the Islamic State — captured the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, then surged south toward Baghdad, the sense of panic that gripped the capital has abated. Confidence has grown that the Shiite-dominated security forces, bolstered by thousands of Shiite volunteers, will be able to hold back the advancing Sunni militants even as they sweep through the mostly Sunni provinces of the north and west.

But among the capital’s Sunni minority, the call to arms has induced a different dread — that they will become targets of Shiite revenge. A spate of sinister killings similar to Hammoudi’s has given weight to those concerns, rooted in memories of the darkest days of the civil war. [Continue reading…]

CBS News reports: Iraqi officials say three mortars have landed near the gate of a much-revered Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, wounding at least nine people.

The golden domed al-Askari mosque in Samarra is one of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam. Sunni militants blew up the dome in 2006, helping trigger some of the country’s worst sectarian bloodshed as Shiite extremists retaliated forcefully. A successive series of bombings in 2007 at the site also destroyed all of the original building’s structures, and led to more sectarian violence.

The deputy head of the Samarra municipal council Mizhar Fleih says the attack took place Monday evening and the shells struck a reception area near the gate. He says nine people were wounded.

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