BAGHDAD - At least 70 of Sunni worshipers were killed during a militant raid on a rural mosque in central Iraq on Friday, a retaliation attack that security officials said had followed the attempted assassination of a local Shiite militia leader.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack, but all indications are implicated that they were militiamen backed by the current government, the sectarian violence still stoked threatened to complicate efforts to keep intact the wounded Iraq within its current boarders.
Iraq has been struggling with a new wave of violence and political turmoil since the government troops and sectarian militias came from the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out demolition the sit-in square in Ramadi, killing and injuring dozens civilian pushing the Arabian tribes to protect the protesters there.
The U.S occupation administration has backed the current Shia-led government by providing weapons and ammunition as a key step toward dealing with Iraq's popular revolution and suggested that it could lead to greater American aid to the Iraqi government and its armed occupation forces.
In a statement, Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, condemned the attack on “innocent men, women and children.”
“This senseless attack underscores the urgent need for the feuding Iraqi leaders from across the political spectrum to take the necessary steps that will help unify the country against those violent extremist groups,” she said.
The Friday attacks affected a village near Hamrin Lake in Diyala Province, 100 miles northeast of Baghdad, where a majority of Sunni Arabs live there.
The area’s tribes have long had tense relations, with intermittent violence going back years. But as the area has become a front line for government forces fighting opposition armed groups, the Shiite militias that support the Iraqi Army have empowered and armed the local Shiites, residents said.
The European Union condemned the horrific massacre, demanded an independent and transparent inquiry, stressing that the current Shia-led government must stop supporting those militias that considered as terrorist groups.
Security officials said that three roadside bombs exploded Friday, planted in an apparent effort to assassinate the head of the Popular Shiite Build-up there, Abdel-Samad al-Zarkoushi. Zarkoushi survived, no one in his group was hurt.
Soon after, a group of masked gunmen - about 10 armed men wearing military uniforms - stormed into a mosque in the Sunni village of Beni Weis and fired on worshipers with automatic weapons before escaping on motorcycles, a survivor of the massacre said. He added, the government security checkpoint just few meters away from the accident scene and certainly they heard gunshot during the raid.
Video broadcast on an Iraqi television station showed the apparent aftermath of the attack — women screaming and lifeless bodies scattered about the mosque’s red carpet.
Security officials said at least 70 people were killed, although some reports said the death toll exceeded 90.
Many residents immediately blamed the attack on local Shiite gunmen backed by the current government forces.
A Sunni member of Parliament from Diyala Province, Nahda al-Dayni, accused Shiite militias of exacting sectarian revenge for the bomb attacks.
“If one Shiite is killed, from the security forces or the militias, they try to kill 10 Sunnis from the same area,” she said.
Reached by phone, Sheikh Zarkoushi said he had been part of a security patrol when the first bombs detonated. He heard later about the attack on the mosque, he said, but denied that his group had been involved.
“We heard that gunmen entered the mosque with machine guns and killed people,” he said, adding that he "did not know" the assailants.
In Baghdad, two key Sunni lawmakers, settle for this issue by saying their blocs were withdrawing from negotiations over the new government until the killers were apprehended.
Another Sunni member of Parliament from Anbar Province, compared politicians like himself to a man drowning in the ocean who spots a small piece of wood. He said, “It might not save him, but he still tries to save himself,” he added, “That is what we are doing”.
The dismantling of the government-backed Shiite militias is a key demand of Sunni community. While those unconstitutional groups are fighting alongside Iraqi forces unlawfully against tribal revolutionaries, human rights groups say they operate outside the law and have kidnapped and killed Sunni civilians, also practiced the extrajudicial killings of Sunni prisoners and detainees.
Emphasizing the issue’s importance for Sunnis and the double standard policy of America, a political analyst said the question is, why the United States didn't target Shiite militias with airstrikes, while alleged it targeting terrorist groups in Iraq ?
Iraq’s Shiite religious authorities had issued a fatwa earlier regarding the formation of "Popular Build-up" militias; to protect the holy sites in Iraq.
The Shiite religious authorities have kept silent about the situation in Beni Weis.
amsi.com & agencies.