Baghdad, June 17: The first possible signs of sectarian killings of Sunnis appeared in Iraq today, as 44 Sunni prisoners were killed in a government-controlled police station in Baquba, north of Baghdad, and the bodies of four young men were found shot to death and dumped on a street in a Baghdad neighbourhood controlled by Shia militiamen.
A police source in Baquba said the prisoners were killed after militants who had been advancing on Baquba attacked the police station, where the men, who were suspected of having ties to the militants, were being held for questioning.
“Those people were detainees who were arrested in accordance with Article 4 terrorism offences,” he said, referring to Iraqi anti-terrorism legislation that gives security forces extraordinary arrest powers. “They were killed inside the jail by the policemen before they withdrew from the station last night.”
Militants aligned with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, last night took several neighbourhoods in Baquba, which is just 70km from Baghdad, according to security officials in Baquba.
Brig. Gen. Jameel Kamal al-Shimmari, the police commander in Baquba, said that officers had repulsed the militants after a three-hour gun battle. “Everything in the city is now under control, and the groups of armed men are not seen in the city,” Gen. Shimmari said today. Officials at the morgue in Baquba said that two policemen had been killed in the fighting. ISIS claimed in a Twitter post on a feed associated with the militants that the prisoners were executed by the police.