Iraq: Shi’ite Massacre Arrests Fuel Sectarian Fears

As many as 20 suspects were arrested today in connection with the murders of 22 Shi’ite men near Nukhaib village in Anbar province on Monday. A large anti-terror unit said to be from neighboring Karbala province traveled secretly to Rutba, which is also in Anbar, to make the arrests.

Anbar’s provincial council, however, threatened to sue Karbala over the detentions, which they classified as "kidnappings." They also demanded the immediate release of the detainees, and the governor ordered all checkpoint guards to prevent any more security forces from entering the province without prior notification. Anbar is predominantly Sunni, fueling suspicion that the arrests were sectarian in nature.

Two of the detainees were eventually freed, including Sheikh Abdul Aleem Hamid al-Kubaisi who is an imam. Some of the other detainees, however, may have been taken to Baghdad instead of Karbala. The chairman of Karbala’s provincial council, Hamead al-Moussawi, meanwhile, was reportedly unharmed in an assassination attempt while visiting the Nukhaib area.

The dead men, who were from Karbala province, had been on a pilgrimage to Syria when uniformed gunmen kidnapped the group at a fake checkpoint in the desert near Nukhaib. The gunmen forced several women, children, and an elderly man off the bus but spared them. Police later found the rest shot to death nearby.

Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, who leads the Awakening Councils, used the massacre and arrests to appeal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to hand security in Anbar over to the councils. He said that Iraqi forces are unable to handle security in the vast province. He called the arrests, "a revenge sectarian action."

At least four Iraqis were killed and 12 more were wounded elsewhere in Iraq. Police also found the bodies of two Iranian tourists.

Seven policemen and their commander were wounded during a pair of explosions in Mosul. Another two were wounded in a separate blast.

In Baghdad, the bodies of two Iranian tourists, possibly pilgrims, were discovered in the Doura neighborhood. A sticky bomb killed a cab driver in Ghazaliya, and other killed a policeman in New Baghdad.

A sticky bomb in Falluja wounded two people, but apparently one of them died.

Last night, an anti-terror unit raided a home in Ramadi, where they killed a teacher and wounded two family members.

Turkish warplanes conducted more air strikes today in the Seedkan district.

Author: Margaret Griffis

Margaret Griffis is a journalist from Miami Beach, Florida and has been covering Iraqi casualties for since 2006.