BAGHDAD - Iraq said on Sunday that foreign Arabs took part in the killing of 22 mainly Shi'ite pilgrims in the Sunni Anbar province and accused other countries of trying to fuel sectarian tension in the war-damaged country.
Gunmen on Monday attacked two buses carrying Shi'ite pilgrims headed to Syria from the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala, killing the 22 men while sparing 15 women, 12 children and two elderly men. Four of the victims were Sunni policemen who had hitched a lift with the Shi'ite pilgrims.
The execution-style killings, followed by an angry reaction to the arrest of eight suspects in Anbar by Shi'ite authorities from Kerbala, threatened to rekindle sectarian hostilities. Anbar is a Sunni heartland that saw some of the worst fighting in Iraq's war.
General Farouk al-Araji, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's military chief of staff, said Arab foreigners were among those who carried out the killings.