The devastating multiple bomb attacks against the minority Yazidi community in northern Iraq on 14 August 2007 may have claimed up to 400 lives, the Iraqi interior ministry claimed today - as the grim task of digging out bodies continues.
Local police officials and the health ministry believe that the figure is nearer 250, but the post-atrocity chaos on the ground is such that determining the true extent of the tragedy may take weeks. A regional governor said as many as 200 bodies are being prepared for burial.
The bombing of two Yazidi villages near Mosul was one of the worst attacks in more than four years of war in Iraq, comments the BBC.
The murders were committed by insurgents from the Sunni community, it seems. The US was quick yesterday to claim that it was the work of al Qaeda in Iraq, and to stress that it was Iraqis not foreigners who were responsible. This is important to them in continuing to justify military engagement.
But Middle East analysts say that attribution of responsibility is more complex. What is certain is that these crimes were sectarian in nature, with a clear religious component.
Moreover, it is the Kurds - brutally supressed by the Saddam Hussein dictatorship - who are suffering once more. A regional Kurdish leaders declared: "Because of the inaction of the government in Baghdad and their inability to protect the population they are suffering the way they are now."
The Iraqi government has now virtually ground to a halt, with many parliamentarians having resigned or being inactive.
The Yazidi religion predates Islam and is found in northern Iraq, Syria and the Caucasus. There are around 500,000 Yazidis worldwide, with the largest number in northern Iraq. Their outlook is often described as a combination of pagan, Sabean, Shamanistic, Manichean, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian and Islamic elements. Sunnis, in particular, regard them as heretics.