2006 May 09 Tuesday
Iraq Death Squads Rise

The Sunni and Shia death squads are killing at a faster rate.

Ever since the Feb. 22 bombing of a major Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra touched off dozens of reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques, Iraqis have reported a sharp rise in attacks at the hands of both Shiite and Sunni Arab death squads.

A Baghdad health official says there have been at least 2,500 murders in the capital since the Samarra shrine attack, adding that those numbers don't include the victims of mass-casualty attacks like those Sunday.

Today, Baghdad appears to be more divided and war-torn than at any point since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Most basic services are at an all-time low (Baghdad is averaging about three hours of power a day) and traditionally mixed Shiite and Sunni Arab neighborhoods continue to feel the impact of the slow seeping away of their diversity as families flee across the city's confessional front lines.

Imagine that: 3 hours of power each day. Forget about refrigeration. Employers can't get much done either. Electric manufacturing machines and office equipment aren't going to work.

You might think the killings by Shia groups are aimed at killing people they know are insurgents. I suspected that even if that was their aim they are probably too ignorant and trigger-happy to have a high accuracy rate on who they kill. Well, after the Mahdi Army tried to kill his son one Sunni man found out that the Mahdis are choosing Sunnis to kill based on their first names.

Abu Omar says the men told them they were killing all young men named Omar and Bakar - popular Sunni names borrowed from early Islamic caliphs hated by Shiites. They said they would be back for his son. After his release he called the police for protection. "They told me that close to Sadr City there's nothing they could do for a Sunni."

The next day, like hundreds of Iraqi families, both Shiite and Sunni Arab, he fled his old neighborhood. In his case, he sought safety in a Sunni area to the west of the Tigris

The Sunni-Shia split feeds on itself. The more innocents killed on each side the greater the willingness of members of each side to kill members of the other side in revenge. The population migrations as people flee in fear reduce the violence because those who flee are not around to get killed by the side they flee from. Fewer die and therefore fewer become survivors who want revenge for lost loved ones.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 May 09 10:41 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Cleansing

sr said at May 10, 2006 4:09 PM:

If Yugoslavia and Iraq deserve ethnic cleansing, so does the US. How long must we wait?

momochan said at May 11, 2006 1:00 PM:

This week NPR is spotlighting the Iraqi police force, and this morning's segment was almost comical in a dark kind of way. The Americans assisting the Iraqi police were having to repeatedly warn about relations with civilians: don't shoot someone just because he insults you, don't beat people with your rifle butts to get answers, etc. because that kind of thing will just turn the people against you.
Even if you could root out the insurgent moles from the police force, what are you going to do with all the 20-year-olds who just want to throw their weight around and figure a badge lets them do so?

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