Pandora's Box flies open
Hey, hey,we're the Shia and we're coming for
Blast at Shiite Shrine Sets Off Sectarian Fury in Iraq
By ROBERT F. WORTH
Published: February 23, 2006
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 22 — A powerful bomb shattered the golden dome at one of Iraq's most revered Shiite shrines on Wednesday morning, setting off a day of sectarian fury in which mobs formed across Iraq to chant for revenge and attacked dozens of Sunni mosques.
The bombing, at the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, wounded no one but left the famous golden dome at the site in ruins. The shrine is central to one of the most dearly held beliefs of Shiite Islam, and the bombing, coming after two days of bloody attacks that have left dozens of Shiite civilians dead, ignited a nationwide outpouring of rage and panic that seemed to bring Iraq closer than ever to outright civil war.
Shiite militia members flooded the streets of Baghdad, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at Sunni mosques while Iraqi Army soldiers who had been called out to stop the violence stood helpless nearby. By the day's end, mobs had struck or destroyed 27 Sunni mosques in the capital, killing three imams and kidnapping a fourth, Interior Ministry officials said. In all, at least 15 people were killed in related violence across the country.
Thousands of grief-stricken people in Samarra crowded into the shrine's courtyard after the bombing, some weeping and kissing the fallen stones, others angrily chanting, "Our blood and souls we sacrifice for you, imams!"
Iraq's major political and religious leaders issued urgent appeals for restraint, and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari called for a three-day mourning period in a televised address. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric, released an unusually strong statement in which he said, "If the government's security forces cannot provide the necessary protection, the believers will do it."
Most Iraqi leaders attributed the attack to terrorists bent on exploiting sectarian rifts, but some also blamed the United States for failing to prevent it. Even the leader of Iraq's main Shiite political alliance said he thought Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq, bore some responsibility. The Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, said Mr. Khalilzad's veiled threat on Monday to withdraw American support if Iraqis could not form a nonsectarian government helped provoke the bombing. "This declaration gave a green light for these groups to do their operation, so he is responsible for a part of that," Mr. Hakim said at a news conference.
posted by Steve @ 1:07:00 AM