Iraqis Fear Sectarian Violence In Baghdad
Baghdad, Iraq – Iraqis are growing increasingly fearful that the battle pitting government forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will soon reach the edges of the capital, and may lead to attacks on civilians.
“Government forces will not have mercy on our areas if they become a battle zone,” said Samer, a Sunni Muslim living in the western suburb of Yarmouk who preferred not to give his full name. “The Sunni neighbourhoods of Baghdad have a bad relationship with the security forces, who have often arrested young men on charges of terrorism. Everyone in my area thinks it will become a target for the army if ISIL comes to fight in Baghdad.”
The Iraqi government received a batch of Russian-made fighter planes on June 28 as soldiers backed by tanks and helicopter gunships began an offensive to retake the northern city of Tikrit from Sunni rebels led by ISIL. The group changed its name to the “Islamic Caliphate” on June 29.
“The fighting will start in mixed Sunni-Shia Muslim neighbourhoods between armed groups on both sides,” said Mustafa al-Bakhati, a journalist who lives in the mixed al-Ghazalia neighbourhood west of the capital. “People here are living on edge,” Bakhati said.