Saturday, November 25, 2006

And the death toll rises

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It was 161 when I wrote about it just over a day ago. Now it's over 200. And the violence continues:

Defying a government-imposed curfew, Shiite militiamen stormed Sunni mosques in central Iraq today, shooting guards and burning down buildings in apparent retaliation for a series of devastating car bombs that killed hundreds of people the previous day in a Shiite slum, residents and police officials said.

As the death toll from those bombings rose above 200, gunmen drove through several neighborhoods in Baghdad and the nearby provincial capital of Baquba, taking aim at mosques with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on the Muslim holy day, when many Iraqis go to mosques to pray.

It may be 215. And then there's this: "Revenge-seeking militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left Friday prayers and burned them alive with kerosene":

Most of the thousands of dead bodies that have been found dumped across Baghdad and other cities in central Iraq in recent months have been of victims who were tortured and then shot to death, according to police. The suspected militia killers often have used electric drills on their captives' bodies before killing them. The bodies are frequently decapitated.

But burning victims alive introduced a new method of brutality that was likely to be reciprocated by the other sect as the Shiites and Sunnis continue killing one another in unprecedented numbers. The gruesome attack, which came despite a curfew in Baghdad, capped a day in which at least 87 people were killed or found dead in sectarian violence across Iraq.

Once again, we can't say that this was "just another day" in Iraq. The "just another day" normalcy of death and destruction that the news media barely paid attention to has given way to new levels of violence that simply cannot be ignored. The new "normal" is an entirely new level of horror, "the deadliest wave of violence since the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003". It is out of control. And it has unleashed chaos.

And there may be no way to stop it.

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