Iraq: 52 dead in Imam Hussein shrine blast

At least 52 are dead following a March 17 bomb blast near the shrine of Imam Hussein, a pilgrimage center for Shi’ites in Karbala. Most reports identified a female suicide bomber as the perpetrator, but the Karbala police chief said it had been a bomb planted in a crowded area. About 75 were injured in the blast, the worst attack on Shi’ite civilians since the Ashura holy period.

The attack overshadowed a trip to Iraq by US Vice President Dick Cheney, who had this to say: “As President Bush has said, the war on terror is an ideological struggle and as long as this part of the world remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export.” (BBC, March 18)

Meanwhile, influential Shiite and Sunni groups boycotted a conference on Iraqi reconciliation. Members of the main Sunni Arab parliament coalition, Tawafiq, refused to attend the two-day meeting because of complaints about the Shi’ite-dominated government. Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc walked out of the conference, as did a contingent led by Sheik Ali Hatem Sulaiman, a representative of Sunni tribes that rose up against the al-Qaeda in Iraq. (LAT, March 19)

See our last posts on Iraq, the sectarian cleansing and the politics of the GWOT.

  1. Mahdi Army clashes with US, Iraqi troops
    Mahdi Army fighters attacked police patrols in southern Baghdad’s Shurta district March 21, further fraying a seven-month-old cease-fire called by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The clashes follow outbreaks of violence in the southern city of Kut, where Mahdi Army fighters battled US and Iraqi security forces. The fighting took place on the same day that Iraq marked five years since the US-led invasion. (Australian Broadcasting Corp., March 22)