The bodies of 14 men were found in Iraq, Thursday, Jan. 16, in a date palm grove the day after they had been kidnapped. These men were identified as members of the Sunni Muslim tribe of Albu Rawdas, and had been abducted while attending a funeral in Tarmiya, 16 miles north of Baghdad.
For the past couple weeks, fighting has been raging in Iraq’s Anbar Province between the government and insurgents. More specifically, the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, and the village al-Bubali have been the center of clashes between government troops–supported by bomber planes, artillery, and paid local militias–and al-Qaeda backed Sunni militants.
It’s often hard to understand the complex web of political and religious infighting that has exploded in the Middle East following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. This conflict is arguably the most confusing in Iraq, where a civil war somewhat similar to the one in Syria is now brewing. In religious terms, the infighting in Iraq differs from the civil war in Syria. In Iraq, Sunnis are the minority (although comprise 90 percent of Muslims in the world), but were in power under Saddam Hussein. After the 2003 U.S. invasion and subsequent withdrawal almost nine years later, the majority Shias took power in the new Iraqi government. This has led some Sunnis, supported by al-Qaeda, to begin terrorist style attacks against the government. These attacks are currently taking place in Anbar.
It seems simple enough, but that black and white explanation does not explain why there are many Sunni militia men fighting alongside government troops against Sunni insurgents right now. One answer could be that not all Sunnis are radical and they support the government because they want stability.
These attacks also do not explain why the 14 Sunni men were recently abducted and executed by supposed al-Qaeda militants dressed as government soldiers. There is currently very little information on who the slain men were (eight of the 14 were from the same family). There is no information on who their abductors were besides the fact that they were dressed in widely available military uniforms. Were they Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists dressed like soldiers? Shia militants dressed like soldiers? Or, maybe they were actually soldiers.
Al-Qaeda has been known to carry out attacks against Sunnis, and this could just be an example of an internal feud. Equally possible is that the men were killed by a non-government Shia death squad in a revenge killing. Just as equally possible is that it was an actual military death squad.
Until more information comes out, it is impossible to make a definitive judgment on who is responsible for the deaths of those 14 men. The only thing certain is that these types of killings will continue and likely increase in the next year. Coupled with the battles currently being fought between the government and insurgents in Anbar, incidents of mass killings are gradually putting Iraq into the midst of a full blown civil war along the lines of the one in Syria.
By: Connor Jetta