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Unease in Baghdad grows amid echoes of past sectarian strife

June 27, 2014 at 6:08 PM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Pentagon confirmed today that the U.S. is flying armed drones over Baghdad to protect U.S. civilians and military forces in the Iraqi capital. Also, Human Rights Watch released a report alleging that ISIL, the extremist militants, conducted mass executions of more than 160 men after seizing control of the city of Tikrit earlier this month.

The uncertainty and violence in recent weeks has many Iraqis running scared.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports on the growing apprehensions of everyday Iraqis.

LINDSEY HILSUM, ITN: It’s the last Friday prayers before Ramadan, but fear is stirring beneath the surface calm of this Sunni mosque. Yesterday, a suicide bomb exploded in a Shia area in Baghdad, killing 19.

And Sunnis say some of their young men have been taken from their homes by groups of unknown men. The day before Ramadan, everyone’s minds are on religion. But what Sunnis fear most now is a return to the bad old days, when the men would disappear and wind up in a ditch with a bullet in their head. And there are some reports that it’s already starting to happen.

Sunnis in Baghdad fear the government will make them suffer, because Sunnis further north are cooperating with ISIS rebels.

MAN (through interpreter): Ramadan is the holy month, so, in this month, God forgives the people. I ask God to save Iraq and all Iraqis.

WOMAN (through interpreter): I feel unsafe even just going the mosque. There’s no security. I’m afraid whenever I go out, in case I never get back home. All Iraqi families are suffering because of this situation.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was meeting military officers today. His mind was on the security of Baghdad, too.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, Prime Minister, Iraq (through interpreter): We will not pardon anyone who makes troubles and he will be brought to account severely and strongly punished. Baghdad’s safety should be secured and cannot be under any danger.

LINDSEY HILSUM: This is what everyone in Baghdad dreads. Back in 2007, car bombs exploded every day, as Sunni insurgents tried to destabilize the government. And unseen, government secret police would torture and kill Sunnis to intimidate them and create a climate of fear.

The Tigris flows under the bridges past the government quarter, so spectacularly destroyed by Shock and Awe 11 years ago. The square in front of the mosque where the Americans pulled down Saddam’s statue is neglected and overgrown, and Baghdad is on the brink of war again.