Saturday, February 19, 2005

Blasts target Iraq's Shia Muslims

Suicide bombers, some wearing difficult-to-detect explosive vests, struck two crowded Baghdad mosques and other targets Friday on the eve of the Shiite Muslim holy day of Ashura, killing nearly 30 people and wounding dozens.A car bombing and other violence took 10 more lives amid rising sectarian rhetoric and uncertainty about who will lead the country's next government. (LA Times)

Five explosions rocked Iraq yesterday, killing at least 39 people, officials said, in the deadliest day of violence since the landmark elections last month. Suicide bombers struck at two Shiite mosques just before Friday prayers ended, another explosion occurred near a Shiite religious procession and a fourth attack, also carried out by a suicide bomber, blasted an Iraqi police and National Guard checkpoint in a Sunni neighborhood. A fifth attack, a car bomb in the southern town of Iskandariyah, left at least seven people dead and 10 wounded outside a Shiite mosque, doctors said. The blast took place at about 7 p.m. in the predominantly Shiite town, 50 kilometers south of Baghdad. The attacks — the deadliest since last month’s elections — recalled bombings a year ago that killed at least 181 at this time. (Arab News)

The election saw power shift to Shiites after decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime. (...) Friday's attacks recalled Ashura last year, when 170 people were killed in a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad and Kerbala, a holy city to the south of Baghdad where the Ashura ritual, commemorating a 7th century martyr, is most intense. Dressed in black for mourning and holding aloft green banners bearing the name Hussein, the martyred grandson of the prophet Mohammed, thousands filled central Baghdad for the Ashura march, some of them flailing themselves with chains. Most members of the Sunni Muslim sect that had dominated Iraq for decades until a US-led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003 did not vote in the poll and they will barely be represented in the new 275-seat National Assembly.
Mohsen al-Hakim, political adviser to Abdul-Aziz, said he expected more attacks on Shiites during Ashura. But he said the community would not be provoked into a violent response. (ABC)

The interim Iraqi government has repeatedly said that supporters of ousted leader Saddam Hussein who lost their status when the Sunni-dominated regime fell, and followers of al-Qaeda operatives, are leading an insurgency and trying to foment religious tensions. Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told the Washington Post yesterday that he feared for Iraq's unity following the Jan. 30 vote. ``If the right decisions are not taken, yes, the country could really head into severe problems,'' Allawi, 60, said in the interview with the Post. (Bloomberg)

Twelve Iraqis and two US soldiers died in violence not obviously aimed at Shiites elsewhere in the country since Thursday evening. Most of the violence targeted Iraqi security forces north of Baghdad, while south of the capital the bodies of two sons of Najaf's police chief were found. (Turkish Press)

Amid increased security, Shiite Muslims in Iraq marked their holiest day of the year on Saturday, one day after a wave of bloody attacks killed 36 people in the deadliest violence to hit this insurgent-wracked nation since the Jan. 30 national elections. (...) Mouwaffaq al-Rubaie, the national security adviser for the interim government, accused Jordanian-born terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and former Baath party members of trying to provoke a sectarian civil war. ``It's a paradoxical idea when they claim that they are fighting the infidels and at the same time, they kill Muslims during Friday prayers,'' he said. He said Shiites, who make up 60 percent of the population, would not call for retaliation against the minority Sunnis who were favored by Saddam Hussein's regime. (Guardian, UK)

This bloodshed comes during a major religious Shia celebration and follows a power shift from the Sunni minority to the Shia majority. These attacks confirm that the current insurgency is led by Sunni radical groups using terrorism as a mean to destabilize a new Shia Iraqi administration and aims to widen a sectarian civil war.


Los Angeles Times, CA,0,4300327.story?coll=la-home-headlines
Arab News, Saudi Arabia:
ABC Online, Australia:
Turkish Press, Turkey:
Guardian, UK:,1280,-4811941,00.html


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