A pair of suicide bombers hit a line of Awakening Council members waiting to collect their paychecks in southwest Baghdad today, killing at least 51 and wounding 50 others. The vast majority of the casualties were members of the group.
The Awakening Council, the US-formed Sunni militia created to fight the insurgency in Iraq, has been struggling to find its way toward a long-promised integration with the Shi’ite dominated government’s security forces. Oftentimes the financially strapped Iraqi government has delayed their payments and the promises of government jobs, creating tensions between the two and convincing many to desert outright.
But those Awakening Council members, many of whom were in the insurgency before the lure of American dollars convinced them to switch sides, are also none too popular with the Sunni insurgents across Iraq, and have made themselves and their families a target at least on par with Iraqi security forces, though nowhere near as well defended or paid.
Today’s attack is just the latest in a string of high profile attacks that have killed hundreds this month, suggesting that the relative calm of June is the exception, rather than the rule, and that the several months prior of rising violence is a trend that is continuing into the sweltering Iraqi summer.