Two corpses lie in cold storage at the Baghdad children's hospital - still
known locally by its old name, Saddam Hospital.
Death notices: ethnic tensions have taken a new turn
The bodies have been cleaned up now - bound up in the traditional Islamic
fashion and placed in wooden boxes for their funeral on Monday.
A third body - of a teenage boy - has already been taken for burial west of
"We've seen many similar cases in this area," says Saddam hospital doctor
"But they've been small things, injuries, burning of cars. It has never
reached the level of murder before this morning."
Dr Dahham is referring to the simmering inter-sect tensions in the teeming
slums of western Baghdad, which in the last week appear to have taken a
bloody new turn.
The two bodies in the freezer belong to Sheikh Ahmed Khudeir and his brother
Walid Khudeir, who were killed walking back home in the Washash
neighbourhood early on Sunday morning after dawn prayers.
The dead teenager - Taisir Falih - used to act as eyes for the 40-year-old
sheikh, who was blind. Brother Walid was also disabled.
Local resident Majid Ahmed says he saw the killers at a T-junction near his
house as he went before dawn to the Washash mosque to pray.
The pair were murdered on their way home from the mosque
They were still sitting there, in a small black car, as he returned from the
mosque at about 0530.
The sheikh's habit was to remain at the mosque for a few minutes after
prayers and proceed slowly home with Taisir along an unpaved, potholed road
with the typical open sewer running down the middle as in so many poor
"About 15 minutes after I got home I heard the gunfire," Mr Ahmed told the BBC. "I was scared and did not look out until the killers had gone and the three bodies were lying on the ground."
The deaths have shocked the poverty-stricken Washash slum, but the manner of their killing has added to their anguish.
"I have not seen the bodies myself," Dr Dahham told the BBC. "But my colleague said that each one had many bullets in it."
Fifteen Kalashnikov rounds for the sheikh, 13 for his brother and nine for
the young boy, according to people in Washash who had gone with the bodies
to Saddam hospital.
"The gunmen killed them first and then emptied the magazines into the dead
bodies," said one resident.
As far as the mosque faithful are concerned, there is only one explanation
for what happened on Sunday morning.
Ahmed Khudeir was a Sunni sheikh at a Sunni mosque and he was killed by
members of the local Shia militia, they believe.
The militia they have in mind - the Badr brigades - belongs to a leading
Shia political party which has a seat on the US-appointed Governing Council.
It was impossible to get the other side of the story in Washash because the
local branch of the party in question - the Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq - had hastily
abandoned their offices earlier in the day.
Sunni and Shia alike in Washash have taken that as tantamount to an
admission of guilt for the morning's killings - although it may just be common
sense to avoid a possible Sunni backlash.
Abdul Hamid Rashid: "Revenge is for God Almighty alone"
Doubtless Shias have also been killed by Sunnis across Iraq's religious
divide - never more so than during Saddam Hussein's rule - but not, according to the
medical officials, in this kind of brutal internecine struggle played out in
the backstreets of Baghdad.
As for the men of the Washash mosque, they vowed they wouldn't be seeking to
avenge their sheikh.
"We are Muslims and so we're against spilling one drop of blood," says Abdul
Hamid Rashid. "Revenge is for God Almighty alone."
The trail that led to Washash is worth mentioning, because Sunday morning's
killing has gone unreported by the international or even the local media.
In fact it appears to be part of a worrying trend that has also gone
Last week doctors at Yarmouk hospital had told me they had just treated
victims of a drive-by shooting with sectarian overtones. At least four people had been shot
dead after evening prayers at the Hassanein Mosque in Amriya, and seven
The mosque is now under armed guard
I had not seen a single other report to confirm this incident so I decided
to go to the mosque - purportedly a Wahhabi institution in a strongly Sunni
area - to check out the story.
In fact, Hassanein official Sheikh Adnan denied the killings had anything to
do with the mosque itself, saying the victims were former regime
intelligence men who happened to pray there - though they did allege Shia
militias were behind the attack.
However, the sheikh told us that Amriya was not the only incident; he told
us of the Washash shooting that morning and another shooting in another
western Baghdad suburb a few days earlier.
If the talk at Washash was of the certainty of God's revenge - at Hassanein
there was a sharp debate on what the response should be.
One hothead was berating the community's inactivity, when the Sunni faithful "sit idly while attacks go unpunished".
But Sheikh Adnan overruled him saying that that path leads to much greater
suffering for both Shia and Sunni communities.
However there is little love lost between the sheikh and the Shia, and
especially the powerful Sciri organisation.
"When we went to give our condolences for the death of Ayatollah Muhammad
Baqr al-Hakim, they said 'Look, here come the Jewish Wahhabis'," he recalls.
It could be that the May attack on Ayatollah al-Hakim, which killed at least
80 people in the Shia holy city of Najaf and has still not been solved, was
the trigger for all this violence.
The question is, are the ingredients in place to spiral in full-scale
This nightmare scenario has already become a realistic possibility in parts
of Shia-dominated southern Iraq.
But if the conflict develops further in the mixed suburbs of Baghdad, Washington's plans to put Iraq back on the road to recovery may be heading
for their biggest setback yet.