December 15, 2008, Mosul, Iraq – Seven members of a single family from the ancient Yazidi religious sect were gunned down in their home as violence killed 18 people in Iraq on Monday in the wake of US President George W. Bush’s farewell visit.
Police in Sinjar, a town near the Syrian border, said the three women and four men who died were killed by a group of armed men, though the mayor said there was a single attacker, “apparently bent on tribal vengeance.”
Eight Iraqi police officers were also killed and 10 police and soldiers wounded by an explosion west of Baghdad, the US military said in a statement.
“Eight Iraqi policemen were killed in an attack by a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in Nasir Was Salam,” it said, adding that the wounded were two Iraqi soldiers and eight police.
Earlier the interior ministry said three civilians had died and 31 were injured in the suicide car bombing in Abu Ghraib west of the city.
At Tarmiya, 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt killing one civilian and wounding three more, the US military said.
Elsewhere police in Ash-Shura 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Mosul said two Iraqis were killed when a home-made bomb exploded.
Four Iraqi soldiers were also wounded by suicide car bomber at Rabiah 460 kilometres (285 miles) northwest of the capital near the Syrian border, police said.
The incidents highlighted that violence remains a continuing fact of life in Iraq as Bush prepares to step down as US president more than five years after he ordered the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime.
“There is more work to be done,” Bush admitted during his visit to Baghdad, where the hostility still felt towards him was demonstrated when an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at the president, forcing him to duck.
Describing Monday’s attack on the Yazidi family, Sinjar Mayor Dakhil Qasem Hassun said: “There were 10 people in the house when an attacker entered and opened fire, killing seven people aged between five and 65.”
“One adult, who fired back without hitting the attacker, was injured, as were two children,” he said.
In August last year the Yazidi people were victims of the deadliest attack since the US-led invasion, when more than 400 members of the community were slaughtered in an attack by four suicide truck bombs.
Yazidis — who number several hundred thousand — mostly live in the Mosul region of northern Iraq and speak a dialect of Kurdish but follow a pre-Islamic religion and have their own cultural traditions.
They believe in God the creator and respect the Biblical and Koranic prophets, especially Abraham, but their main focus of worship is Malak Taus, the chief of the archangels, often represented by a peacock.
Followers of other religions know this angel as Lucifer or Satan, leading to popular prejudice that the secretive Yazidis are devil-worshippers.
In the August 2007 incident, bombers detonated four explosive-laden trucks in two Yazidi villages in Nineveh province.
The atrocity, blamed by the US military on the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda, massacred whole families of the religious minority.
In April last year, a mob of Yazidi men stoned to death Doaa Khalil Aswad, a 17-year-old girl from their own people who had offended conservative local values by running away to marry a young Muslim.
Later that month, gunmen stopped a bus carrying workers home to the dead girl’s village near Mosul, dragged out 23 Yazidis and shot them dead.
In Monday’s attack in Abu Ghraib, where pockets of Al-Qaeda fighters are still believed to be active, the driver triggered the car’s explosion near a police barricade, a ministry official said.
Meanwhile, General Qassem Atta, spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, said the army has discovered a factory for making magnetic or “sticky” bombs in the mainly Sunni Fadel district of central Baghdad.
“We found 24 magnetic bombs and 50 remote-controlled bombs,” he told AFP.
Fadel was an Al-Qaeda stronghold for a long while but is now controlled by police, the army and Sahwa (Awakening) forces, former insurgents who have turned against the jihadists.