BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP -Masked Shiite gunmen stopped cars in western Baghdad Sunday and grabbed people off the streets, singling out the Sunni Arabs among them and killing at least 37, police said.
The attack in the Jihad neighborhood apparently was retaliation for the car bombing of a local Shiite mosque the night before.
Police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razzaq said 37 bodies were taken to hospitals and police were searching for more victims reportedly left dumped in the streets. He also said U.S. and Iraqi forces had sealed off the area.
Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie, a Sunni, called the attack “a real and ugly massacre.”
He blamed Iraqi security forces that are widely believed to have been infiltrated by Shiite militia.
“There are officers who instead of being in charge should be questioned and referred to judicial authorities,” al-Zubaie told Al-Jazeera TV. “Jihad is witnessing a catastrophic crime.”
At about 10 a.m. gunmen pulled up in four cars in the dangerous Jihad neighborhood in western Baghdad and began seizing pedestrians and people in vehicles, according to police and witnesses.
An Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said Shiite militiamen wearing masks and black uniforms were roaming the neighborhood, checking people’s identity cards, presumably for Sunni names. “They are killing civilians according to their identity cards,” he said.
The Sunni Arabs were singled out and driven away. Their bodies were found later dumped on streets throughout the neighborhood, Abdul-Razzaq said, adding that police had collected at least 37 bodies.
Clashes also broke out in northwestern Baghdad between U.S. forces and members of the Mahdi army, the militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Three militia members were killed, police said. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.
In other violence Sunday, gunmen killed an Iraqi intelligence officer in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, one of several deadly shootings targeting security forces.
The officer was gunned down after his car was intercepted in the center of Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, health official Salim al-Abadi said.
Gunmen also opened fire on a foot patrol in eastern Baghdad, killing a policeman, police said. Another policeman was killed in a drive-by shooting in the northern city of Kirkuk.
A funeral was held Sunday for a former senior Baath Party official and his 5-year-old granddaughter. Both were gunned down Saturday night while driving in the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, police said.
A mortar round hit a home in another area in Dora, wounding three children.
In other violence Saturday, gunmen on a motorcycle shot to death two men who were security officers during Saddam Hussein’s regime as they were walking in separate locations of Karbala, police said.