Fundamentalist Gunmen Kill 12 in Baghdad Liquor Stores

Iraq, Liquor Store, Shooting

An Iraqi liquor store owner arranges imported bottles of alcohol on his shop’s shelves in Baghdad. Selling alcohol in Iraq is a dangerous business, with liquor store workers facing bombings, shootings and robberies. (Getty Images)

Today in Baghdad, armed gunmen entered various alcohol shops in the Iraqi capital and shot and killed 12 customers. Meanwhile, four people died in other attacks.

According to an interior ministry official, the gunmen were traveling in four vehicles and restrained federal policemen at a checkpoint in the Zayouna area of Badgdad. They then shot 12 people dead in various adjoining alcohol shops nearby.


The killings are believed to have been carried out by a fundamentalist group. With alcohol forbidden in Islam, Baghdad liquor stores have been attractive targets for these factions. In fact, many of liquor stores are staffed by religious minorities.

Although under Islamic tradition Muslims do not drink alcohol,  in many parts of Baghdad, it is not uncommon to see people drinking alcohol at outdoor cafes and restaurants.

Within months of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, liquor stores in Baghdad and elsewhere were bombed and shot up. Despite the attacks, the number of liquor stores and nightclubs in Baghdad flourished.

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Although violence in Iraq has fallen from its peak in 2006 and 2007, violent attacks remain common. About 800 people have been killed in attacks since January of this year. Today’s liquor store massacre is not the only act of violence the country endured. In West Baghdad gunmen killed an anti-al-Qaeda militiaman along with his brother while a car bomb in the northern city of Mosul killed a child and wounded 14 people, police and doctors said. Also, gunmen killed a prominent anti-government protest organizer near the city in north of Baghdad, officials said.

The ethnic sectarian divide between the Sunni majority and Shiites continues to be a point of contention.

According to AFP, more than four months ago, protests broke out in Sunni areas of Shiite-majority Iraq.

Demonstrators have called for the resignation of the prime minister, a Shiite, and criticized authorities for allegedly targeting their community with “wrongful detentions and accusations of involvement in terrorism.”

On April 23, security forces clashed with protesters near the northern town of Hawijah, sparking violence that killed 53 people. Dozens more died in subsequent unrest that included revenge attacks against security forces.

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