From a late-breaking AP account, Feb. 22. A day after the bombing of a Shiite market in Baghdad’s Dora district, killing 22, comes the destruction of one of Shia’s most sacred shrines in Samarra. Somebody is apparently hell-bent on plunging Iraq into civil war at any cost…and perhaps igniting sectarian warfare throughout the Islamic world.
On Wednesday, a large explosion destroyed the golden dome of one of Iraq’s most famous Shiite religious shrines in Samarra, the U.S. military said, sending protesters pouring into the streets.
Police believed there were victims buried under the debris of the Askariya Shrine but had no immediate casualty figures. The attack on a major Shiite religious symbol raised fears of an escalation in sectarian violence.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered near the shrine, waving Iraqi flags, Shiite religious flags and copies of the Quran.
“This criminal act aims at igniting civil strife,” said Mahmoud al-Samarie, 28-year-old builder who was among the crowd. “We demand an investigation so that the criminals who did this be punished. If the government fails to do so, then we will take up arms and chase the people behind this attack.”
Religious leaders at other mosques and shrines throughout Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, denounced the attack.
The car bombing…in…Dora…was the deadliest bombing in Baghdad since Jan. 19, when a suicide attacker blew himself up in a coffee shop, killing 22 people and injuring 23.
The Dora bombing was the second major attack in as many days against a Shiite target in the capital. Twelve people died Monday when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt on a bus in the heavily Shiite district of Kazimiyah.
At least 969 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence this year and at least 986 have been wounded, according to an Associated Press count.
However, large-scale attacks against civilians have declined in recent weeks amid widespread public criticism, including from Sunnis clerics and others sympathetic to the Sunni-dominated insurgency.
A roadside bomb exploded Wednesday near a primary school in a mostly Shiite area in southern Iraq, killing two boys and injuring four others, police said. The incident happened at about 7:45 a.m. in the Bashrogiya area near Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, police Lt. Othman al-Rawi said.
Some Sunni insurgent groups are believed to be holding back to give Sunni Arab politicians a chance to negotiate concessions from Shiites and Kurds during talks on a new government.
However, talks among parties that won parliamentary seats in the Dec. 15 elections have bogged down…
The Interior Ministry has denied running or sanctioning death squads. On Thursday, however, the ministry announced an investigation into alleged death squads after U.S. military officials announced the arrest last month of 22 policemen who were about to kill a Sunni Arab north of Baghdad…
A coalition of Shiite Muslim religious parties won 130 of the 275 seats in the new parliament, and Shiite leaders insist their strong showing in the election gives them the right to control key ministries.
A Kurdish alliance won 53 seats and two Sunni Arab blocs together took 55 seats – a major increase over Sunni representation in the outgoing parliament.
Sunni Arabs have accused the Shiite-run Interior Ministry of kidnapping and murdering Sunni civilians, a charge the ministry denies. Shiites and Kurds dominate the army and police, while most of the insurgents are Sunni Arabs.
As we noted in WW4 REPORT #94, Samarra was the scene of a November 2003 bloody firefight between US forces and Shiite guerillas, the details of which were hotly contested. The al-Askari mosque suffered minor damage in this battle. As we wrote in WW4 REPORT #93:
Samarra’s gold-domed sanctuary holds the tomb of two of Shia’s 12 imams, the 10th, Ali al-Hadi, and the 11th, Hadi al-Askari. A second shrine in Samarra indicates where the 12th imam, Muhammed al-Mahdi, went into “concealment” or “occultation” according to Shiite tradition. Below the blue-tiled dome there is a cellar, said to be the last place the 12th imam dwelled. Samarra was also the seat of the Abbasid caliphate for 56 years after it relocated from Baghdad in the 9th century, and still holds Abbasid-era relics, such as the Great Friday Mosque, with its distinctive spiral minaret. (Encyclopedia of the Orient)
This attack has implications far beyond Iraq, and could have devastating impacts throughout the Islamic world. As we noted in regard to the recent violence around the Ashura holy day in Pakistan and Afghanistan:
There is really a three-way civil war underway throughout the Islamic world. The three inter-related conflicts are: 1.) Sunni v. Shia, 2.) fundamentalism v. secularism, and 3.) national liberation v. imperialism. The sad irony is that it is the social iniquities that underly this last contradiction that provide the raw material of endemic rage—which is increasingly exploited, siphoned off as it were, into the prior two. Fundamentalists conflate secularism and imperialism (given a propaganda boost by their neocon enemies, who do likewise), and pose the only alternative as a purified, hegemonic Islam which must, of course, crush internal heresy.