Monday, March 12, 2007

Militants torch homes, buildings in Muqdadiyah; Seen as warning to residents

Soldiers of the 6-9 squadron, 3rd brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, approach a suspect house just outside Muqdadiyah today, 60 miles north of Baghdad.

Sunni militants burned homes in a mixed city northeast of Baghdad on Saturday and Sunday, forcing dozens of families to flee and raising the specter of a new intimidation tactic in Iraq's evolving civil war, Iraqi officials and witnesses said.

Attackers burned both Sunni and Shiite homes in a neighborhood of Muqdadiya, a city of about 200,000 in Diyala province, about 60 miles from Baghdad. A security official in Diyala said that at least 30 houses were completely burned, including occupied and abandoned buildings, while a Sunni Arab politician from the area said that only six houses were destroyed. Some witnesses said as many as 100 houses were set on fire.

Victims from both sects blamed the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella organization for Sunni extremists that has taken over other towns in the area. Residents said the group had recently demanded money, weapons, and oaths of support from the local populace.

They said the burnings were intended to scare people into giving in or running away. Dozens of families fled the city, either left homeless by the attacks or terrified that they would be next.

Read the rest at the Houston Chronicle