BAGHDAD -- Nearly four dozen Sunni detainees were gunned down at a jail north of Baghdad, a car bomb struck a Shiite neighbourhood of the capital and four young Sunnis were found slain, as ominous signs emerged Tuesday open warfare between the two main Muslim sects has returned to Iraq.
The killings, following the capture by Sunni insurgents of a large swath of the country stretching to Syria, were the first hints of the beginnings of a return to sectarian bloodletting that nearly tore the country apart in 2006 and 2007.
During the United States' eight-year presence in Iraq, American forces acted as a buffer between the two Islamic sects, albeit with limited success. The U.S. military is now being pulled back in -- with a far more limited mission and far fewer troops, as U.S. President Barack Obama nears a decision on an array of options for combating the Islamic militants.
In the latest sect-on-sect violence, at least 44 Sunni detainees were slaughtered by gunshots to the head and chest by pro-government Shiite militiamen after Sunni insurgents tried to storm the jail near Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, police said.
The Iraqi military gave a different account and put the death toll at 52, insisting the Sunni inmates were killed by mortar shells in the attack late Monday on the facility.
The sectarian violence was a grim reminder of a dark chapter in Iraq's history when nearly a decade ago the city woke up virtually every morning to find dozens of bodies dumped in the streets, trash heaps or in the Tigris river, bullet-riddled or with torture marks.
-- The Associated Press