Shiites force Sunnis from homes

Published December 10, 2006

BAGHDAD - Gangs of roving Shiite Muslim gunmen stormed the homes of Sunni Arabs in a west Baghdad neighborhood Saturday, burning houses and killing two people, authorities said.

By evening, dozens of Sunni families had fled their homes, carrying their belongings and furniture in trucks in one of the worst known recent incidents of sectarian cleansing.

A senior Iraqi army commander and residents said Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr launched the attack on a section of the mixed neighborhood of Hurriyah.

The attack was likely in retaliation for an attack on Shiite residents by Sunni gunmen, the Iraqi commander said.

Also Saturday, authorities said a nephew of Saddam Hussein serving a life sentence for financing insurgents and possessing bombs escaped from prison in northern Iraq with the help of a police officer. The nephew, Ayman Sabawi, was arrested in May 2005.

Sectarian attacks killed at least 20 people across Iraq, including five who died in a suicide car bombing outside the Al-Abbas Shiite shrine in Karbala, about 50 miles south of Baghdad, police said. Officers also found 39 bullet-riddled bodies in Baghdad.

The U.S. military said two Marines were killed in Anbar province, and outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Iraq for a farewell visit.

Information from the Washington Post and Associated Press was used in this report.