This just in from the Associated Press:
Shiite militants and police enraged by massive truck bombings in the northwestern town of Tal Afar went on a revenge spree against Sunni residents there Wednesday, killing as many as 60 people, officials said. The gunmen began roaming Sunni neighborhoods in the city, shooting at residents and homes, according to police and a local Sunni politician. Ali al-Talafari, a Sunni member of the local Turkomen Front Party, said the Iraqi army had arrested 18 policemen accused of being involved after they were identified by the Sunni families targeted. But he said the attackers included Shiite militiamen.
This is no coincidence. Iraq’s corrupt, largely inept police force has been infiltrated and influenced by religious militias for years. I reported on this for The Village Voice way back in 2005:
Police forces in Iraq don’t just stand aside and let the tribes and parties have their way. It’s not that simple. Many policemen are themselves active members of tribes and parties. As much as 60 percent of Basra’s population is affiliated with [cleric Moqtada] al-Sadr. So the men who abducted [and murdered American reporter Steve] Vincent may really have been Iraqi police. But whether they were acting as police or on orders from their tribes or parties is another matter. Iraq’s convoluted power structure makes it difficult to trace the paths of decision making.
Check out some recent police reform efforts here.