Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Yezidis targeted in simultaneous suicide bombings, 175 dead

(Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Wednesday al Qaeda was the "prime suspect" in suicide bombings overnight on an ancient minority sect that Iraqi officials said killed more than 175 people in northern Iraq. Rescue workers searched for bodies in the rubble of dozens of buildings destroyed in up to five simultaneous car bomb attacks.
The attackers, driving fuel tankers, struck densely populated residential areas west of the city of Mosul that are home to members of the Yazidi sect, whose followers are considered infidels by Sunni Islamist militant groups. The fuel tanker attacks occurred about 8pm local time [1700 GMT]. The U.S. military said it was too early to say who was responsible, but the scale and apparently coordinated nature meant the attack carried the hallmarks of Sunni Islamist al Qaeda. The United States has condemned the attack as barbaric.
In the aftermath of the blast, authorities imposed a total curfew in the Sinjar area, which is close to the Syrian border where the U.S. military has been battling al Qaeda in Iraq. It's also one of the transit points for fighters coming into the country from Syria. Sinjar district mayor Dakheel Qassim Hasoun said only people and vehicles involved in rescue efforts would be allowed to move through the area. He said it would be impossible to establish a final death toll any time soon because many bodies were still buried in the rubble of up to 30 houses destroyed in the blasts.
Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Donnelly, U.S. military spokesman for northern Iraq, said U.S. forces were assisting Iraqi emergency agencies as they sifted through the rubble and were providing logistical, security and medical support. Iraqi army captain Mohammad al-Jaad put the death from the attack by at least three suicide bombers driving fuel tankers at 175, with 200 wounded. Hasoun said the death toll could go as high as 200. Dhakil Qassim, a mayor in the town of Sinjar near the attacks who blamed Al Qaida in Iraq, said four trucks approached Qahataniya from dirt roads and they all explodedwithin minutes of each other.
Iraqi authorities said the death toll was so high because most of the destroyed houses, all tightly packed in three Yazidi residential compounds, were made of mud that were shattered by the force of the attack. "It is going to be difficult to get a full death toll because of the nature of the buildings," Garver said.
The U.S. military said five vehicle-borne bombs had been detonated in Yazidi residential compounds in the villages of Kahtaniya and al-Jazeera. Jaad said the village of Tal Uzair was also hit. The Islamic State in Iraq, an Al Qaida front group, distributed leaflets a week ago warning residents near the scene of Tuesday's bombings that an attack was imminent because Yazidis are "anti-Islamic."
Yazidis are members of a pre-Islamic Kurdish sect who live in northern Iraq and Syria. Sunni militants have targeted Yazidis in recent months by kidnapping and killing them. Yazidis in Iraq say they have often faced discrimination because Melek Taus, the chief angel they venerate as a manifestation of God is often identified as the fallen angel Satan in biblical terminology.

Some members stoned a Yazidi teenager to death in April. She had converted to Islam and fled her family with a Muslim boyfriend. Police said 18-year-old Duaa Khalil Aswad was killed by relatives who disapproved of the match. The incident appears to have sparked an increase in attacks on Yazidis. The bodies of two Yazidi men who had been stoned to death were also found in the northern city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, police said.

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