Karbala carnage escalates factional strife

The April 28 suicide car blast in Karbala occurred at a checkpoint on an approach to the city’s golden-domed Al-Abbas shrine, amid crowded shops and restaurants near the Shi’ite holy site. “Once again the dark forces and terrorists have targeted the city of Karbala,” Abdulaal al-Yasiry, head of the Karbala Provincial Council, told state Iraqiya television. “Security forces do not have adequate training… The terrorists have started to come up with creative attacks so that it’s impossible for police to uncover them.” Karbala is one of Iraq’s best protected cities because of its holy status. Nonetheless, a suicide car bomber killed 40 people at a crowded bus station in the same area on April 14 (prompting the Sadr faction to pull out of Iraq’s government). (Gulf Times, April 29) Karbala and Shi’ite pilgrims were also massively targeted during the Ashura celebrations once again this year. In the wake of this latest atrocity, the various factions are once again blaming each other. How long before the government finally collapses—at which point we can start “officially” calling this a “civil war”? From The Star, South Africa, April 30:

Parties blame rivals as Karbala mourns
BAGHDAD – As the southern city of Karbala mourned the victims of a massive car bomb that killed more than 70 people, Iraq’s politicians lashed out across sectarian lines to apportion blame.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party yesterday laid the responsibility for Saturday’s blast in a crowded street outside a major Shi’ite shrine with Sunni religious extremists and Saddam Hussein loyalists.

“The Takfiris (Sunni extremists) and the orphans of the tyrannical regime with their perverse ideas and dark fatwas (religious rulings) continue to assail the foundations of a just nation that honourable people are trying to build in Iraq,” the party said.

Meanwhile, the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni grouping, condemned the “terrorist crime” but insisted that the “occupation and the present government bear full responsibility”.

The attack bore the telltale signs of the country’s Sunni insurgency, which has carried out a series of spectacular attacks in recent weeks, including another in Karbala, where a car bomb killed 42 people two weeks ago.

The attack delivered yet another blow to a security plan unveiled in February, which US officials say has reduced sectarian killings but has failed to halt a series of massive car bomb attacks.

With a security clampdown in force in Baghdad, violence has spread to other areas as insurgents seek more accessible targets.

In Karbala itself, many residents blamed local authorities for failing to protect them, further eroding the popularity of the Shi’ite-dominated Maliki government.

See our last posts on the Iraq and the sectarian cleansing.