Gunmen with rocket-launchers massacre 60 at market in Mahmoudiya, Iraq

Monday, July 17, 2006

For 30 minutes, a mob of heavily-armed gunmen tore through a Shiite populated market town in Mahmoudiya, Iraq, exploding car bombs and shooting at people.

Police Capt. Rashid al-Samaraie said the assault which killed at least 60 began at 9 a.m. when mortars were fired into the town and a group of men in cars stormed a checkpoint, killing three Iraqi soldiers.

The gunmen proceeded to attack shoppers and passers-by with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades. Some of the 50 strong attack force threw grenades into open restaurants and cafes. Two car bombs also were detonated leading to further casualties.

Local town official Sheik Bassem Anizi said he was an eyewitness to the events as they unfolded. "I saw the armed gunmen shooting randomly at the people. The terrorists wanted to send a message saying we can attack anywhere we want and kill civilians," he said. Anizi escaped the massacre by hiding behind a wall in a hardware shop.

Early reports said a total of 60 people died and about 50 people were injured.


On hearing the news Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr removed himself from a session in Parliament along with a similar protest made by another party.

"There is collaboration by the government and there is a conspiracy by the Americans and the Sunnis to kill the Shiites," said a statement released by al-Sadr's office.

This audio file was created from the text revision dated 2006-07-17 and may not reflect subsequent text edits to this report. (audio help)

"At the time of the shooting, all the Sunni shops were closed," it said, implying a link between Sunnis and the attacks. Al-Sadr also has been accused of ordering attacks which have killed Sunnis.

In the Iraqi Parliament Sunnis suggested the massacre might have been a reply to the kidnap and killing of seven Sunnis whose remains were left in Mahmoudiya, Sunday July 16.

The US military has said Iraqi troops have arrested two and have found a cache of arms believed to be connected to the bloody attack.