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Islamic State militants again massacre fellow Sunnis in Iraq

Islamic State militants again massacre fellow Sunnis in Iraq
Iraqi security officers inspect the damage caused by an explosives-rigged vehicle on Baghdad's Palestine Street near a tent serving refreshments to Shiite pilgrims. (Ahmad Rubaye / AFP/Getty Images)

By all accounts, the killings have been summary, brutal and public: At least 200 members of a western Iraqi tribe that has defied the militants of Islamic State have been lined up and shot dead in recent days, including dozens whose executions came to light Sunday.

The victims of the spasm of killings — in apparent retribution for the Sunni Muslim tribe's fight against Islamic State, which is also made up of Sunnis — are said to include women and children.

The latest mass killings came Saturday evening in the town of Ras al-Maa, north of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, tribal leader Naim Kaood said. He said 67 people had died.

Similar massacres were reported to have taken place Thursday and Friday. The overall toll is unclear, but some estimates put it at more than 200. Faleh Issawi of the Anbar provincial council put the deaths of Albu Nimr tribal members since Thursday at 258.

"The problem now is the targeting of all who have the Nimrawi family name … whether they are women, children or members of the police," he told local reporters. Nimrawi is the common surname for members of the tribe, which has a significant presence in the region.

Iraq's air force delivered food and humanitarian aid to the besieged tribe, the Defense Ministry said Sunday. It did not elaborate.

Anbar has been largely overrun by Islamic State, which has seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria, but the provincial capital has remained in government hands, thanks in large measure to resistance from Sunni tribes that have opposed the militants.

Violence also flared Sunday in the Iraqi capital, where a car bomb ripped through a convoy of Shiite Muslim pilgrims ahead of one of their most important religious holidays. Seven people were killed and more than two dozen injured, according to the Alsumaria TV network.

The convoy was targeted as it was passing through south Baghdad's Ilam neighborhood, bound for the holy city of Karbala, about 60 miles to the south.

The holiday features ceremonies of self-flagellation and mourning in commemoration of the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad. It is often a lightning rod for sectarian attacks against Shiites, and government forces have been on high alert in the run-up to the holiday.

Sunni Muslims also commemorate Ashura, but it is a far more significant holiday for Shiites, as Imam Hussein is one of their most revered figures.

Sectarian tension has escalated in recent months with the onslaught of Islamic State, which considers Shiites to be heretics. But hostilities between Sunnis and Shiites long predate the rise of the group. .

Iraq's largest Shiite militia, which has been incorporated into the U.S.-backed national army and police, has been accused of massacring 34 Sunni Muslims at a mosque northeast of Baghdad in August.

A Human Rights Watch report issued Sunday is the latest accusation by human rights groups of atrocities against Sunnis by the Asaib Ahl al Haq militia and other Shiite armed groups, which work closely with the army and police under Iraq's Shiite-dominated government.

The allegations are worrisome for the United States, which advises, arms and equips Iraq's security services even as they assimilate Shiite militiamen into their ranks. Killings of Sunnis by the militias also contribute to worsening sectarian bloodshed that has raised fear that Iraq is returning to the deadly Shiite-Sunni warfare of 2006 and 2007, which killed thousands of Iraqis.

Special correspondent Bulos reported from Amman and Times staff writer King from Cairo. Staff writer David Zucchino, recently on assignment in Baghdad, contributed to this report.

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