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Men Disguised As Police Kill Five Shiite Teachers At School

By Sabrina Tavernise
THE NEW YORK TIMES


BAGHDAD, IRAQ

Armed men dressed as police officers burst into a primary school in a town south of Baghdad on Monday, rounded up five Shiite teachers and their driver, marched them to an empty classroom and killed them, a police official said.

Classes had just finished for the day at the Jazeera primary school in Muwelha, a Sunni Arab suburb of Iskandariya, south of Baghdad, when the gunmen entered the building at 1:15 p.m., forced the six men into the room and shot them dead.

The killings took place while some children were still at the school.

In the past, teachers have rarely if ever been singled out, and this attack raised fears that Iraqi schools, largely unprotected, could become targets. But the killings appeared to have been motivated more by sectarian hatred than any animosity toward the profession, said the official, who identified himself as Capt. Abu al-Hars.

He said the gunmen were disguised Sunni Arab fighters. Shiite civilians of all types have been victims of insurgent attacks in recent weeks.

The killings were the most startling in a string of attacks in and around Baghdad that left at least 16 people dead, including Oil Ministry workers, day laborers and three American soldiers. On Monday night attackers struck again in Iskandariya, detonating a suicide bomb that only partly exploded. Six people were wounded.

Rifts between Iraq’s two main religious groups have deepened considerably since January, when Shiite religious parties were elected to head the government, leaving Sunnis with a minor role. U.S. military officials have said they expect the violence to increase as Iraq prepares to hold a national referendum next month on a new constitution that is largely opposed by Sunni Arabs.

Sunni Arab radicals carry out most of the attacks and in recent weeks have explicitly called for the killing of Iraqi Shiites.

Some of the worst attacks have taken place in the area around Muwelha, a swath of territory south of Baghdad known here as the Triangle of Death.