Sunday, April 22, 2007

Who murders Iraqi civilians? (continued)

This follows up some previous items on Who murders Iraqi civilians? (October 2005) and Who has been murdering Iraqi civilians? - A reminder of the obvious (January 2007). As I noted in the second of those discussions:
If we focus just on Iraqis killed in politically related violence (leaving aside estimates for disease, ordinary crime, and other categories), the great majority of the victims have been Iraqi civilians murdered either by the Sunni Arab "insurgents" or, more recently, by a growing wave of reprisal killings by Shiite Arab death squads. [....]

The atrocities by both sides in this sectarian civil war need to be equally condemned. But we should also not forget that the prime mover in this story has been the savage and unrelenting campaign of terrorist mass murder against Iraqi Shiites carried out since early 2004 by the coalition of Ba'athists and Islamist fanatics at the core of the Sunni Arab "insurgency." [....] A central thrust of the Sunni Arab "insurgency" has been a systematic strategy of murdering Iraqi Shiites - ranging from major religious and political figures through government employees and professionals to indiscriminately targeted ordinary people - in order to detonate a full-scale sectarian civil war that would render the country ungovernable and panic the US into leaving Iraq, after which they expect (rightly or wrongly) that they can crush the Shiites and restore the dominance of the Sunni Arab minority. [....]
Juan Cole's post for Thursday, April 19 on his Informed Comment blog, headed "Bloody Wednesday: Guerrillas, Violence kill Nearly 300 Iraqis", actually covers a range of subjects, and he offers bits of commentary along the way. But here is the heart of the main story:

Nearly 300 persons were killed or found dead in Iraq on Wednesday and hundreds were wounded. Al-Hayat writes in Arabic that the smell of blood and gunpowder wafted through Baghdad on Wednesday In the capital alone, Sunni Arab guerrillas carried out five horrific bombings in Shiite neighborhoods that, with some mortar attacks and shootings, killed around 200 persons and wounded many more.

The morning began with a guerrilla bombing of a police checkpoint at the gate to the Shiite slum of Sadr City, which killed 41.

Then the terrorists opened the gates of hell, carefully placing high explosives in a Shiite market and detonating them as workers gathered to take minibuses home after a hard day's work. The blast incinerated or tore apart some 140 persons and injured 150 more, according to Reuters.

Al-Hayat says: "Eyewitnesses said that furious citizens, who busied themselves with collecting bodies charred by the horrific explosion and gathering body parts spread over an area of fifty years, threw stones and the rubble produced by the explosion at a joint American/ Iraqi force that came to the market, forcing it to withdraw before this demonstration of popular rage."

Peddlers in the market put their wooden trolleys to work as ambulances for the wounded.

There were reports of children being pulled alive from beneath the charred corpses of their relatives.

Later on, the guerrillas set off two smaller bombs, killing even more Iraqis. [....]

A big nitric acid cache was also found in Baghdad, probably intended for use in bomb making by the guerrillas.

I would only add that the appropriate term for people whose main strategy is the indiscriminate mass murder of civilians is not "guerrillas". Cole knows this, I'm sure. At one point he breaks with this blandly euphemistic terminology and says, more accurately, that "the terrorists opened the gates of hell".

There's more:
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that the Baghdad coroner's office is reporting a significant uptick in the number of unidentified corpses coming into the Baghdad morgue, especially from the (Sunni) Karkh area. This trend is a reversal of the lower numbers of corpses being found daily in February and March.

McClatchy has more details.
Judging from the McClatchy roundup, most of these seem to have been killed by terrorists from the Sunni Arab "insurgency," but some look like victims of Shiite death squads. Killings by Shiite death squads in Baghdad have gone down significantly during Petraeus's security operation, since the Sadrists and other Shiite militias have been lying low. But the continuing murders of Shiite civilians may be prompting some resumption in reprisal killings.

--Jeff Weintraub