Sunnis accuse Iraq forces of jailhouse massacre

Sunnis accuse Iraq forces of jailhouse massacre

BAGHDAD - The boy was shot in the head twice. His family say he was imprisoned for using an unregistered SIM card.

But the next time they saw him was at the morgue - one of 52 dead prisoners mostly with execution-style wounds to the head and chest.

The world has been shocked this week by video footage of Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant gunning down scores of prisoners piled in a shallow grave during their lightning advance through northern Iraq.

But Sunni residents say government forces and their allied Shi'ite militia are responsible for similar atrocities, pointing to the deaths of dozens of prisoners at a jail in Baquba, a provincial capital in a religiously-mixed area an hour north of Baghdad that came under insurgent attack on Monday night.

The government says the prisoners were all killed in a crossfire when the jail came under attack. But local Sunni officials, including the governor and the mayor, say the prisoners were executed by their guards.

The only surviving prisoner was later kidnapped and murdered, leaving no witnesses.

According to the local chief of police, ISIL fighters tried to assault the jail in the Mafraq district of Baquba, capital of Diyala province, during an attempt to seize the town on Monday.

The battle raged throughout the night and eventually ISIL was pushed back. In the morning the 52 prisoners were found dead.

Residents say the prisoners at the jail were mostly being held for petty crimes.The police say they were terrorism suspects.

Staff Brigadier General Jameel al Shimmeri, the local police chief, said that ISIL fighters used mortar bombs and grenades in the fighting and that the prisoners were killed by stray gunfire and from explosions nearby.

"After the battle cleared, we had one security forces member killed and found the prisoners had also been killed," he told Reuters.

"It's a small prison, a house in the middle of a residential area, and it wasn't heavily fortified.

The prison was like a battlefield and it was highly likely the prisoners would be exposed to gunfire just like any of us," he said.

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