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Dozens die in Iraqi revenge attack

Published March 29, 2007


BAGHDAD - Shiite militants and police enraged by deadly truck bombings went on a shooting rampage against Sunnis in a northwestern Iraqi city Wednesday, killing as many as 70 men execution-style and prompting fears that sectarian violence was spreading outside the capital.

The killings occurred in the mixed Shiite-Sunni city Tal Afar, which had been an insurgent stronghold until an offensive by U.S. and Iraqi troops in September 2005, when militants fled into the countryside without a fight. Last March, President Bush cited the operation as an example that gave him "confidence in our strategy."

The revenge killings were triggered by truck bombings on Tuesday that killed 80 people and wounded 185.

Gen. Khourshid al-Douski, the Iraqi army commander in charge of the area, said 70 were shot in the back of the head and 40 people were kidnapped Wednesday. An anonymous senior hospital official in Tal Afar said 45 men were killed.

Outraged Sunni groups blamed Shiite-led security forces for the killings. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office ordered an investigation and the U.S. command offered assistance.

The hard-line Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars said the revenge killings were evidence "of the clear plot and coordination between the militias and the government forces of interior and defense." The Iraqi Accordance Front, the biggest Sunni parliamentary group, said the killings proved the need for an overhaul of Iraq's Shiite-dominated system.

"If yesterday's attacks were carried out by unidentified terrorists, today's events were conducted by well-known criminal policemen and they must be punished," Sunni lawmaker Dhafer al-Ani said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces shot two suicide truck bombers carrying highly toxic chlorine before they could reach a government complex in Fallujah on Wednesday, but the explosives detonated, wounding 15 U.S. and Iraqi forces, the American military said.

The statement did not give a breakdown of how many Iraqi and U.S. forces were wounded. Iraqi soldiers and police were being treated for breathing troubles, nausea, skin irritation and vomiting - symptoms of chlorine gas inhalation. The chlorine gas attack was the eighth since Jan. 28.

At least 44 people were killed or found dead elsewhere in Iraq, including four people in two car bombings in Baghdad.

[Last modified March 29, 2007, 01:56:42]

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