March 28, 2007

Rampage in Tal Afar

Simply awful:

Off-duty Shiite policemen enraged by massive bombings in the northern town of Tal Afar went on a revenge spree against Sunni residents there on Wednesday, killing at least 45 men, police and hospital officials said.

The policemen began roaming the town's Sunni neighborhoods on foot early in the morning, shooting at Sunni residents and homes

A senior hospital official in Tal Afar said at least 45 men ages 15 to 60 were killed and four others were wounded.

Police said dozens of Sunnis were killed or wounded, but they had no precise figures. The shooting continued for more than two hours, the officials said.

Army troops later moved into the Sunni areas to stop the violence and a curfew was slapped on the entire town, according to Wathiq al-Hamdani, the provincial police chief and his head of operations, Brig. Abdul-Karim al-Jibouri.

Tal Afar is a city of 220,000, and unlike their neighbors, the residents are nearly all Turkmen. the city's population is roughly 60-percent Shia, and the city is divided into 18 neighborhoods along tribal lines. Middle East Online reports that the dead were found handcuffed and blindfolded, shot in the back of the head, execution style. The revenge killings took place shortly after the truck bombings, in the Sunni neighborhood of Wahada. It is not yet known why this particular Sunni neighborhood was targeted.

The rampage ended with the arrival of an Iraqi Army unit.

Time reports that the Iraqi Army has already arrested 18 Tal Afar policemen for the killings based on eyewitness accounts from the victim's family, and also stated that Shia militiamen participated in the attacks.

The Tal Afar police have been confined to barracks and that police from Mosul (30 miles to the east of Tal Afar) were moving in to provide security. Brig. Abdul-Karim al-Jibouri is moving in to take control of the operations on the ground, and to presumably start an investigation.

The massacre--there is no other way to describe it--was in response to two truck bombings carried out by Sunni militants yesterday that killed 63 and wounded 150.

The Sunnis already distrust the Shia-dominated police forces, and the two-hour revenge attack is sure to sour relations even more.

How much relations will sour depends in large part on how the Iraqi police forces themselves respond to the attack. Confining the local police to their barracks is the first step, but it is necessary for an investigation to immediately begin, and for those responsible for the attacks to be arrested (if there are more than the 18 captured so far) and tried for their crimes.

If there is any good news at all to report from this massacre, it is that the Shia-dominated Iraqi Army was able to move in and arrest many if not all of those responsible for the attacks and restore order without U.S. involvement.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at March 28, 2007 07:50 AM

That is awful. It's exactly the sort of thing that makes people like me believe that our troops have no way to win in Iraq.

For the Sunnis to accept democracy, they must agree to give the Shia most of the political power, the same Shia who the Sunnis have repressed for decades. They must accept the authority of the Shia police, including the ones who handcuff and execute Sunnis. They'd be putting themselves in a position where they pay taxes to fund these people's salaries. What is the chance that the Sunnis are going to accept this peaceably?

It's too much to ask of our troops to solve these problems. They are trained for combat, not for babysitting.

Posted by: Lex Steele at March 28, 2007 11:14 AM

Gateway Pundit has doubts about the reporting:

Posted by: Jeff at March 28, 2007 01:27 PM

A response to Gateway Pundit's post is here.

I like GWP, but his is way off on this one.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 28, 2007 03:08 PM

It's exactly the sort of thing that makes people like me believe that our troops have no way to win in Iraq.

McVeigh must have really bummed you out about American democracy too then.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at March 28, 2007 03:14 PM

Purple Avenger -- No, McVeigh didn't shake my faith in US democracy. Rather, you made a poor analogy. We had long had a solid democracy when McVeigh struck, as opposed to the current effort to form one in Iraq. McVeigh was a fringe element of the US, whereas the Shia/Sunni conflict cuts into mainstream society. Sunni/Shia relations are a major facet of Iraqi society, unlike McVeigh's affiliations.

Posted by: Lex Steele at March 28, 2007 04:03 PM

Here's a thought: perhaps what Iraq needs right now is more guns... and Iraqis willing to use them.

Perhaps these marauding policemen and militia goons wouldn't have been so brave, breaking into people's homes, had the townspeople been on the other side of the door with an AK47 of their own. Perhaps there would be fewer roadside massacres, where insurgents force people off a bus and shoot them, if the bus riders were armed and ready to shoot (think of the American west: what was more likely to deter Indian attacks, the unarmed stagecoach or the one with a guy sitting next to the driver with a Winchester on his lap?).

It's interesting that here in America, where we champion our right to bear arms to protect us from dangers the police can't or won't do anything about, we aren't more vocal in calling for Iraqis to have the same level of personal protection.

Oh, and I have thought about whether more guns in Iraq would present a problem for our troops and think (from the safety of my chair) that the answer is no... the Iraqis who want to take shots at US troops already can...

Posted by: steve sturm at March 28, 2007 04:53 PM

Linked at 2007.03.28 raq/Surrendercrat Roundup

Posted by: Bill Faith at March 28, 2007 07:28 PM