Gunmen who forced their way on to a bus murdered 22 Shiite pilgrims as they travelled through western Iraq’s remote desert on a trip to a holy shrine.
The bodies were discovered late on Monday night, hours after the gang of gunmen stopped the bus at a fake security checkpoint and told all the women to get off, according to one security official who interviewed a survivor.
The gunmen then drove the bus a few miles off the main road between Baghdad and the Jordanian border in Iraq’s Sunni-dominated Anbar province. The pilgrims were ordered off the bus and shot one by one, the security officials said.
The 22 bodies were found there, about 300km west of Baghdad.
“Some armed men stopped the bus coming from Syria Monday around 9:30pm (1830GMT), they made the 22 passengers get off the bus and killed them with automatic weapons in the desert region of Noukhair,” police general Haider Rzayj told the AFP news agency.
Two Iraqi security officials and a political leader from the southern Iraqi city of Karbala, where the pilgrims were from, confirmed the shooting details.
Shiite pilgrims have been a favourite target for Wahabi insurgents who are trying to revive the sectarian violence that brought Iraqi to the brink of civil war just a few years ago.
Monday’s attack comes fewer than four months before US troops – who surged into Iraq in 2007 to stem the religious killings – are due to leave the country.
An Iraqi army patrol found the deserted women, weeping and wailing, by the side of the road and brought them to the provincial capital of Ramadi for help.
One of the women told officials that the four gunmen, dressed in military uniforms, stopped the bus at a fake checkpoint.
It was not immediately clear if the caravan was heading to the Sayyida Zainab shrine in Damascus or coming home.
The Sectarian violence and the terrorist activities have increased in Iraq , when US Administration is forcing the Iraqi Government to validate the extension of US forces in Iraq. And Increase in the activities of Al Qaida elements and terrorist activities raises many question as to why The terrorist activities increases and the al Qaida elements starts issuing statements of terror attacks , as these acts always supports the needs and necessities of the US administration who wants to elongate their stay in Iraq.