BAGHDAD — Iraq’s prime minister on Wednesday made his harshest public criticism to date of Kurdistan, accusing the Kurds of aiding Sunni militants, even as sectarian tensions appeared to be rising with the discovery of 50 bodies, blindfolded, bound and shot about 50 miles south of Baghdad.
The televised midafternoon speech by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared to be a shot across the bow at the Kurdish leadership for its insistence on retaining the ground that Kurds took in northern Iraq just after the fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the Sunni militant group, and on their demands for an independent state.
“The capital of the Kurdistan region has become the headquarters of ISIS, Baath and al-Qaida,” al-Maliki charged. He called upon the Kurds to “stop the operations room for ISIS” and asserted that the Iraqi government had “diagnosed the internal and external parties who supported the conspiracy that took place in Iraq,” implying that perhaps the Kurds were among them.
Mr. Maliki appeared to be alluding to the fact that some of the Sunnis who fled from ISIS went to Kurdistan, including many of the tribal leaders and Sunni politicians who oppose the Iraqi government, and whom the government suspects might have made a deal with ISIS. Some tribes have supported the militant group, but most have said that doing so was, in part, a way of expressing their opposition to Mr. Maliki’s government, which, in the estimation of many, has pursued discriminatory policies toward Sunnis.
Adding to Mr. Maliki’s anger is the Kurds’ persistent demand for independence. Iraq is amidst attempting to form a new government but has been immobilized by a combination of political gridlock and a concerted effort by Mr. Maliki to hold on to power.
Mr. Maliki also declared that there had been “improvement” in the performance of security forces. Although it seems that desertions have diminished, the struggle with the militants, at the moment, seems to be at a standstill.
South of Baghdad, at least 50 bodies, blindfolded, bound and shot, were found Wednesday in Babil province, according to the provincial council chairman and a doctor at the Hillah Surgical Hospital. The bodies were discovered in the early morning in a farming area less than a mile from a road, but the killings appeared to have occurred Tuesday night, said Raad al-Jubori, the council chairman, who gave a brief news conference in Hillah, the provincial capital.
Although no one has said whether the men who were killed were Sunni or Shiite, many in the area assume that they were Sunnis. The region is majority Shiite, though with a significant Sunni population.
A member of the Sunni Saadat tribe said that during the past three days, at least 25 young Sunni men had disappeared, and he had come to the hospital when he heard that bodies were found to see if his son was among them. He did not find his son, and there was no indication that the young men who disappeared were among the dead.
Mohammed, a hospital physician who declined to give his last name, said the bodies had shown “no signs of torture.”Middle East - Iraq - Nouri al-Maliki - Iraq government - Baghdad - Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant