BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Gunmen shot dead eight members of a family, including a 12-year-old girl and five women, in an overnight raid on their home in Iraq’s volatile northern Diyala province, police said.
The attackers abducted two other family members, a man and woman, from the house in the village of Maamil near Balad Ruz, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad, Balad Ruz police Lieutenant Abdul Jabbar Raheem told Reuters. He did not know who was behind the attack or why the family, all Arabs from the Sunni sect living in a largely Shi’ite neighbourhood, were targeted a week before provincial elections seen as a key test of Iraq’s growing stability.
The attack at 11.30 p.m. on Thursday (2030 GMT) evoked memories of the tit-for-tat sectarian slaughter that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006-2007, which has only recently subsided.
Raheem said the family were internal refugees with no known political links who had fled violence in the provincial capital, Baquba. They were poor and worked in brickmaking factories dotted around the area, he said.
Diyala is one of Iraq’s most violent places, a melting pot of rival ethnic Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, each group split between Sunni and Shi’ite faiths. “The army is searching for the perpetrators and we want to know if the killing was tribal, sectarian, political or just criminal,” a military source in Diyala, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak, told Reuters.
Both Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and Shi’ite militia groups still roam Diyala under the cloak of the province’s dense palm groves, after being pushed out of other parts of Iraq. Security sources said Shi’ite militants hold sway in Maamil.