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Lawlessness in Iraq spurs rogue vigilante justice

| Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 6:18 p.m.

BAGHDAD — The mob strung up the suspected terrorist's shirtless body by the feet and set it ablaze on a street on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital, a tire placed underneath to fuel the flames. In grainy footage of the immolation this week, police appeared to do little to stop the vigilantes' street justice.

In another video issued in recent days, jihadi militants who took over a major highway in western Iraq stop three Syrian truck drivers, interrogate them, then gun them down, believing them to be members of the Alawite sect.

The two incidents, confirmed by police, illustrate in stark terms the increasing brutality of the unrest gripping Iraq, fueling complaints that security forces are unable to contain it.

Violence inside Iraq has accelerated in recent months to levels not seen since 2008, with more than 4,000 people killed since the start of April. The growing unrest — marked by frequent coordinated car bombings and other attacks blamed mostly on al-Qaida's local branch targeting police, the military and often Shiite Muslim areas — is intensifying fears Iraq is heading back toward the widespread Sunni-Shiite sectarian killing that peaked in 2006 and 2007.

Yet another barrage of al-Qaida-claimed explosions struck in and around Baghdad on Wednesday, when attacks killed at least 82 and wounded more than 200.

The mob's immolation of a man believed to be a bomber in Baghdad on that day suggests that at least some Iraqis have had enough and are starting to take matters into their own hands.

Two police officials said the man in the video was seen getting out of a car that later exploded. One bomb had already gone off, and onlookers grew suspicious when he parked his car and then ran away after being spotted, one of the officers said. An angry mob caught up with him beat him to death, then set his body alight, they said.

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