Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hashemi: Sunnis primary victims of ethnic cleansing

BAGHDAD, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi said his fellow Sunni Arabs account for the majority of the thousands of Iraqis killed last year and are the victims of ethnic "cleansing" by militias driving them from Baghdad.

Asked in an interview about figures indicating around 23,000 civilians and police may have been killed in violence last year, Hashemi said he could not confirm the numbers: "But I am not surprised at this figure. And I could say easily that the majority of them are Sunni," he told Reuters late on Friday.

The bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra last February, blamed on al Qaeda, triggered a wave of sectarian violence that Hashemi said had hit Sunni Arabs disproportionately.

"Since the 22nd of February, there is a continuous, ongoing cleansing in Baghdad to kick out all Sunnis," said Hashemi, who lost two brothers and a sister in gun attacks last year.

Sectarian attacks, bombings and mortars are killing hundreds of people every week in Baghdad, the epicentre of violence in Iraq. Tens of thousands of both Shi'ites and Sunni Arabs have fled their homes amid threats and violence on both sides.

Government officials have stopped giving official numbers of violent deaths, and are generally careful about addressing the sensitive subject of precisely who is killing whom.

Read the Rest at Reuters/Alternet

Related Link:
Hakim: Sunnis causing 'sectarian genocide' of Shi'ites