Two suicide bombers in Iraq killed at least 17 people in apparent revenge attacks after a major assault on a Sunni mosque heightened sectarian tensions.
Shi’ite militiamen machine gunned 68 worshipers at a village mosque in Diyala Province on Friday as politicians try to form a power-sharing government capable of countering Islamic State militants.
An advance by Islamic State through northern Iraq has alarmed the Baghdad government and its Western allies and drawn U.S. airstrikes in Iraq for the first time since the withdrawal of American troops in 2011.
Although the air campaign has caused a few setbacks for Islamic State, they do not address the far broader problem of sectarian warfare which the group has fueled with attacks on Shi’ites.
Bombings, kidnappings and execution-style shootings occur almost daily, echoing the dark days of 2006-2007, the peak of a sectarian civil war.
Two of Iraq’s most influential Sunni politicians suspended participation in talks on forming a new government after the militiamen carried out the mosque attack.
Deputy Prime Minister, Saleh Mutlaq and Parliament Speaker, Salim al-Jibouri, have pulled out of talks with the main Shi’ite alliance until the results of an investigation into the killings are announced.
Jibouri, a moderate Sunni, condemned both Islamic State as well as the Iranian-trained Shi’ite militias who Sunnis say kidnap and kill members of their sect with impunity.
“We will not allow them to exploit disturbed security in the country to undermine the political process. We believe the political process should move on,” he told a news conference on Saturday.
Iraq’s new Shi’ite prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, faces the daunting task of trying to draw Sunnis into politics after they were sidelined by his predecessor Nuri al-Maliki.
Maliki stepped aside after pressure from Sunnis, Kurds, some fellow Shi’ites, Iran and the United States.
Iran, a regional power broker with deep influence in Iraq, is sending its foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to Baghdad on Sunday for talks with Iraqi officials.