x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Gunmen kill 25 people in Baghdad

Gunmen storm three houses in the village of Sufia, killing 20 men and five women linked to an anti-Qa'eda militia, say Iraqi officials.

Gunmen in army uniforms swooped on a village south of Baghdad at dawn today, storming three houses and killing 25 people from families linked to an anti-Qa'eda militia, Iraqi officials said. Among the dead were 20 men and five women, an interior ministry official said. The brutal killings, which bear the markings of an al Qa'eda attack, come as Iraq's political parties negotiate to form a government, nearly a month after parliamentary elections.

Security officials have warned that a protracted period of coalition building could give insurgents an opportunity to further destabilise Iraq. "Men wearing uniforms and driving vehicles similar to those used by the army stormed three houses in the village of Sufia, in the region of Hour Rajab, and killed 25 people, including five women," said the interior ministry official. The official said the killers tied up their victims before carrying out the killings. A defence ministry official confirmed the details of the attack and the toll.

According to the defence ministry official, the families were part of the Sahwa (Awakening) movement, known as the "Sons of Iraq" by the US army, which joined American and Iraqi forces in 2006 and 2007 to fight against al Qa'eda and its supporters, leading to a dramatic fall in violence across the country. Control of the Sahwa passed to Iraqi authorities in October 2008. Since January 2009, their wages ? said to have been cut from $300 (Dh1, 101) under US leadership to $100 ? have been paid, often late, by the government.

The Sahwa are, however, regular targets of al Qa'eda, which remains active in the country. Hour Rajab is a mainly agricultural region on Baghdad's outskirts, mostly populated by the Jubur and the Janabat tribes. Though the frequency of attacks has dropped significantly across Iraq since its peak in 2006 and 2007, figures released on Thursday showed the number of Iraqis killed in violence last month was the highest this year.

Altogether 367 people died as a result of attacks in March, the fourth consecutive month in which the overall number of people killed was higher than the same month a year previously. Today's violence comes as Iraq's two biggest political blocs ? the Iraqiya list of ex-premier Iyad Allawi and the State of Law Alliance of sitting prime minister Nuri al-Maliki ? battle to form coalition governments, more than a week after results from the March 7 polls were released.

Both American and Iraqi security officials have warned that a lengthy period of government formation could give insurgent groups and al Qa'eda an opening to carry out attacks. *AFP