Gunmen attacked a minibus carrying Shiites north-east of Baghdad today, killing six men and wounding one woman, an official said. Elsewhere, at least 20 others were killed, many in drive-by shootings.
The Shiites were returning home from visiting relatives when they were ambushed on Friday night near Balad Ruz, about 45 miles north-east of Baghdad, according to the town’s mayor, Mohammed Maarouf.
The motive for the attack was unclear. However, it occurred in a religiously mixed province which has recorded numerous acts of violence by Shiite and Sunni Arab extremists against members of the rival communities.
Tension between the rival Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities escalated following the February 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine i Samarra and reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques in Baghdad, Basra and other mixed cities.
Meanwhile, American journalist Jill Carroll left Iraq to head home after her release by Iraqi abductors who held her for 82 days. The freelancer for the Christian Science Monitor left Baghdad early today two days after she was set free. Hours later, she emerged smiling from a US Air Force transport plane at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
She did not make any statements and was whisked away to a hotel at the base, officials at Ramstein said. She was expected to leave for Boston later from Frankfurt.
Before the 28-year-old reporter was released, her abductors filmed a video interview in which she spoke out against the US military presence in Iraq.
“Tens of thousands ... have lost their lives here because of the occupation,” she said in the video, posted on an Islamist Web site. “I think Americans need to think about that and realise day-to-day how difficult life is here.”
She said Iraqi insurgents were “only trying to defend their country ... to stop an illegal and dangerous and deadly occupation.”
Carroll has not made any public statements about the video, but her father said it was coerced.