{ An Autopsy of Democracy }

Friday, October 07, 2005

Death squads behind Iraq killings?

Is this "civil war" yet?

The 22 bodies, lined up in coffins in a mosque courtyard, are as shrivelled as ancient mummies after lying a month in the desert where they were dumped, bound and bullet-ridden. They were Sunni Arabs, rounded up from their Baghdad homes one night by men in police uniforms.

. . . . . . . .

They had been shot, some in the head. Some were blindfolded. All had their hands bound by ropes, plastic or shiny metal handcuffs. The site was 161 km from where the men had last been seen.

On 18 August, some 50 vehicles full of men in Interior Ministry uniforms swept into Baghdad's Iskan neighbourhood just after dawn and surrounded several streets, going into houses and grabbing the 22 young men - some of them pairs of brothers, said Jamal Amin Mustafa, 60, who lives nearby and was at Friday's funeral service.

"They took them from their bedrooms," said Mahmoud al-Sumeidaie, the cleric who delivered prayers during the service. "We blame the government, which came to save us from Saddam's terrorism but has brought terrorism worse than Saddam."

The story is echoed by Tahir Dawood, who on 28 September went to the Baghdad morgue to identify his two younger brothers and five of his cousins whose bodies - bound, blindfolded and shot - were found that morning dumped in a lot near his neighbourhood of Hurriya.

. . . . . . . .

the idea of self-defence among Sunnis appears to be catching on. After the killings of Dawood's relatives, Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samaraie - head of the Sunni Endowment, the government agency in charge of the upkeep of Sunni mosques and shrines - called for forming local forces in Baghdad's neighbourhoods to defend them against suspicious interlopers.

That raises the prospect of yet another semi-organised armed force in Iraq's patchwork of armed men - one that could easily turn from self-defence to revenge.

"We swear we will retaliate now for the killing of my brother and my cousins," said Saadon al-Azawi, whose brother was among those killed in Hurriya.

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