Even by recent Iraqi standards, the scale of the latest atrocity is hard to comprehend. A busy market street in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar was the target of a double suicide bomb attack. As the dust settled in the Sunni neighbourhood, bystanders rushed to help – but there was little anyone could do.
At least 55 were killed and 180 injured – many of them women and children queuing for food. Analysts say Tal Afar is the latest example of a recent upsurge in violence outside Baghdad. But the killing did not stop there. In what is being seen as a reprisal, gunmen later went on the rampage in a Shi’ite neighbourhood and shot around 70 men.
The tit-for-tat violence in a town held up by US President George W. Bush only a year ago as a beacon of progress towards peace in Iraq, graphically illustrates the challenge of bridging the ever-widening sectarian divide.