It’s hard to imagine sectarian tensions in Iraq could get any worse, but every new day seems to set the bar even lower in the country. Today, a Shi’ite militia attacked a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers, killing 73 civilians.
The incident in Baqubah, a major city on the outskirts of Baghdad, reflects growing fears among the Shi’ite militias fighting the war against ISIS that local Sunnis could join up with ISIS invaders. Their strategy is to massacre them, ensuring those locals are definitely going to back almost anyone as an alternative to the pro-government militia movements.
Sunni MPs announced they are withdrawing from talks on a new coalition government, and won’t consider returning unless the ruling State of Law Party hands over the militiamen responsible and compensates the families of the victims.
Iraqi officials claimed they think ISIS was responsible for the attack, and there is no indication they are going to arrest any militiamen in relation to the attack.
With the Iraqi military retreating from fights with ISIS, the nation has increasingly relied on Shi’ite militias to defend the area along the north of Baghdad. That has left the militias with the run of the area, and free to crack down on local Sunnis.
With Iraq trying to put forward a pretense of religious unity, the massacre underscores the division that for years has been tearing the country apart.