Dozens Dead in Baghdad Shooting

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Al Jazeera English

Dozens Dead in Baghdad Shooting

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An Iraqi soldier mans a checkpoint at one of two entrances leading into the al-Amin neighbourhood of Baghdad, in 2008. Gunmen in army uniforms swooped on a village south of Baghdad, stormed three houses and massacred 25 people from families linked to an anti-Qaeda militia before dawn, Iraqi officials said. (AFP/File/Ali Yussef)

Up to 25 people have been killed after a group of
men dressed in Iraqi army uniforms stormed five houses in southern
Baghdad, Iraqi authorities have said.

The attack took place in a
village in the capital's Rasheed district in the early hours of
Saturday.

"Men wearing uniforms and driving vehicles
similar to those used by the army stormed ... houses in the village of
Sufiya ... and killed 25 people, including five women," an interior
ministry official said.

The victims were handcuffed and shot in the head, police said.

Awakening Councils

Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, a Baghdad security spokesman,
said some of the victims were members of the Iraqi security forces and
others of the Awakening Councils, also known as the sahwa or Sons of
Iraq - Sunni fighters who have allied with US forces to fight al-Qaeda.

He said
authorities had arrested 25 people and sealed off the area to conduct a
search for other suspects.

Seven people were left alive with their hands tied behind their backs
after the attack, he said.

Saad al-Muyalibi, an Iraqi government adviser, told Al Jazeera that
the killings "could be political, but not linked to the results of [the]
elections".

"We are trying to investigate the background of the people who were
murdered and was it al-Qaeda or was [it] a tribal thing, It's [too]
early to say," he said.

"We are not ruling out any possibility, but the initial view [is]
that it could be al-Qaeda. Most likely al-Qaeda continues its attacks on
government installation and on the Sons of Iraq, the sahwa members."

Al-Qaeda stronghold

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Baghdad, said the Rasheed
district used to be an al-Qaeda stronghold until the Awakening Council
clamped down on the fighters.

"[Awakening Council members] are targets, just like security
officials, government officials."

She said the attack came in a time of political uncertainty with no
clear winner  emerging from the March 7 national elections and the
political parties still negotiating to form alliances.

"A lot of discussion has taken place but still no progress. So, a lot
of tension and speculation that the post-election period might see an
upsurge in violence.

"It could be the Iraqi style of negotiating. This is what you hear
when you talk to people here. They are expecting violence, maybe to step
up pressure."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

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