Photo by Iraqi Prime Minister Office via Getty Images.
Iraqi Political and Community Reactions to the Samarra Shrine Bombing:Iraqi political, religious and communal leaders unanimously condemned the attack that destroyed the two minarets of the revered Askari shrine in Samarra by suspected Sunni insurgents on Wednesday morning.
A statement from President Jalal Talabani condemned the bombing, describing it as a “criminal act aiming to stoke the fires of infighting and sedition, and to foil the efforts for national reconciliation.” Talabani also called for restraint and for security forces to take immediate measures to secure the situation and to expose the criminals.
Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki ordered an indefinite curfew in Baghdad as well as the arrest of the Iraqi unit that was in charge of protecting the shrine. Maliki, speaking in a televised address on the state-run Al-Iraqiya TV, blamed Al-Qaeda and supporters of former president Saddam Hussein for the attack, and said he had ordered security forces to protect religious shrines and mosques across the country from further attacks.
Speaker of Parliament Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani issued a statement strongly condemning the bombing and calling on Iraqis to show “patience, wisdom and restraint to pass the chance on Iraq’s enemies and their evil conspiracies aiming to plant the seeds of discord and division between the sons of the one nation.” The statement added “the sinful hands that targeted the shrine both times are the same attacked the shrine of Imam Abdul Qadir Al-Gailani yesterday.”
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In his first public response from Najaf, Shi’ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr issued a statement condemning the attack and holding U.S. troops and the Iraqi government responsible. “The Iraqi people should learn that no Sunni or Muslim would dare touch a shrine that hosts two such infallible Imams,” read the statement, which was announced by Salah Al-Ubaidi, media spokesman of the Martyr Sadr Bureau in Najaf, “but it is the hidden hands of the occupation that intend harm for our sons.” Sadr also called on Iraqis to foil the “abominable American-Israeli plot to spread hate and discord between Muslim brothers,” and for a three-day mourning period and peaceful demonstrations.The Sadrist Movement had announced its withdrawal from Iraqi parliament in protest of the attack. The movement, which holds 30 seats in parliament, had withdrew its four ministers in Maliki’s government last April because of the prime minister’s refusal to set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Asmaa’ Al-Musawi, a member of the political bureau of the Sadr Movement, told Al-Malaf Press that the bloc decided to suspend its membership in parliament until the government rebuilds the Askari shrine and other Shi’ite mosques and shrines over the country.
Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani issued a statement from Najaf condemning the bombing and calling on Iraqis to “exercise self-restraint and avoid any vengeful attacks that would target innocent people or the holy places of others,” in a reference to possible reprisals by Shi’ite militias against Sunni areas and mosques. The offices of grand ayatollahs Mohammed Ishaq Al-Fayyadh, Basheer Al-Najafi and Mohammed Sa’eed Al-Hakim also issued condemnation statements.SIIC leader Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim issued a statement blaming Saddamists and takfiris for the attack in Samarra and calling for the punishment of security forces and officials who failed to protect the shrine.
The Iraqi Islamic Party issued a statement describing the attackers who bombed the Askari and Abdul Qadir Al-Gailani shrines and burned mosques and places of worship as “hired criminals operated by foreign and regional intelligence services.” The statement called on clerics, political parties, the government and the media to “take their responsibility in foiling the sedition, and to avoid pouring oil on fire.”
The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq issued a statement condemning the attack and holding “occupation forces and current Iraqi government fully responsible.” The association demanded from Maliki to submit his resignation and to investigate the involvement of its security forces in the attack “so that the people can get the truth of this shameful game that the government is playing along with the occupiers.” The statement questioned the government’s narrative, pointing out that area of the shrine is “completely surrounded with concrete blocks and security checkpoints, and is guarded around the clock by governmental troops, while snipers are deployed to nearby roofs, not to mention that all four entrances to the shrine are closed.”
Iraqi government spokesman Dr. Ali Al-Dabbagh called for restraint and appreciated the role of the Marja’iya in calling for restraint.
Former PM Ibrahim Al-Ja’fari stressed the necessity of unity between all components of the Iraqi people. “The evil hands responsible for this criminal act are attempting to spread horror among Iraqis, who will prevail because of their strong will to confront the enemies’ plots,” he said.
Salih Al-Haideri, head of the Shi’ite Endowments Board, decried the attack and called on Iraqis to stand hand in hand in order to “shield from sectarian discord by which the terrorists and takfiris are attempting to shatter the unity of Iraq.” He also called for avoiding “reactions of a sectarian nature that would fulfill the goals of enemies.”
Ayatollah Mohammed Taqi Al-Mudarresi issued a statement from his office in Karbala holding U.S. troops responsible for the bombing. “This would not have happened if security in Samarra was the responsibility of Iraqis and valiant tribesmen,” the statement read. Al-Mudarresi also called on Sunni scholars to “restrain the vile elements that surround them and to put out the fires of sedition and to cut the foreign hands that are attempting to control the people’s security.”
Abdul Illah Al-Nasrawi, head of the Arab Socialist Movement said the attack is an extension to the attack on February 22 of last year, and it was repeated to shed Iraqi blood as part of a plot that targets the unity of this country. “We are required to thwart this sedition and block the way against anyone who attempts to destroy life in the new Iraq.”
MP Mithal Al-Alusi, head of the Iraqi Nation (Umma) Party, condemned the attack and demanded from members of parliament to “translate their speeches of condemnation and criticism into actions on the ground and to unite their political discourse.” Al-Alusi also called for the “execution of terrorists guilty of transgression against the unity of Iraq.”
Maliki Visits Shrine Ruins in Samarra; Residents Say Gunmen Deployed to Streets:
Photo by Iraqi Prime Minister Office via Getty Images
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki made an appearance in Samarra with U.S. military officials to inspect the ruins of the Shi’ite shrine that was bombed early Wednesday by suspected Sunni insurgents, as residents reported an increased presence of militants in and around the city despite an indefinite curfew.An unnamed source in Salah Al-Din Police said the city has been cordoned from surrounding areas with a large U.S. military and Iraqi Interior Ministry commando presence. An Interior Ministry spokesman told Al-Hurra TV that reinforcements have been sent to the city and that a “large-scale security crackdown will start in the city in a hunt for terrorist groups.”
Meanwhile, residents in Samarra reported that dozens of militants have appeared on the streets in the southern part of the city and in surrounding rural areas. Eyewitnesses said unknown gunmen had set up a checkpoint on the main road south of Samarra and abducted three civilians, while militants in the Mu’tasim district opened fire and wounded three people.
Nine Sunni Mosques Attacked in Basrah; Historic Al-Uthman Mosque Destroyed:
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Eyewitnesses from the southern city of Basrah reported that Shi’ite militiamen have attacked nine Sunni mosques around the city, including the historic Al-Uthman mosque in Ma’qal, and killed four people guarding the mosque.Security forces protecting the Al-Uthman mosque withdrew from the area, prompting Shi’ite gunmen to storm in and clash with the guards, killing one and abducting three others, who were killed an hour later in the Shi’ite-majority Hayyaniya district, a Mahdi Army stronghold, according to the Islam Memo website. The mosque was then rigged with explosives, and the blast around sunset completely destroyed the minaret and severely damaged the mosque.
The Al-Uthman mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the southern city, and was used as a station for pilgrims on their route to Mecca because of its wide courtyards and living quarters. Its high two-story minaret was one of the landmarks of Basrah.
A source from the Sunni Endowments Board said militiamen attacked the Al-Hasanain mosque and set it on fire. The source said the mosque’s guards were abducted by the militiamen but later released in another area of the city.
An armed group attacked the Al-Kawwaz mosque in central Basrah with hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades.
Other mosques reported to be attacked in Basrah are the Abayachi, Farouq and Fayhaa’ mosques.
In the town of Abu Al-Khasib, southeast of Basrah, residents claimed an Iraqi Army patrol broke into the Shaheed Taha mosque and ransacked its contents.
In the predominately Sunni town of Zubair, southwest of Basrah, the Talha bin Ubaid Illah shrine was reportedly attacked, but with no news of damages or casualties. The shrine was attacked twice in the past following the first bombing of the Samarra shrine last February.
A curfew was imposed in Basrah starting 4 p.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. Thursday, and Iraqi security forces were seen patrolling the streets as British helicopters flew above at low altitudes.
Gunmen Bomb Shi’ite Shrine in Khalis; Several Sunni Mosques South of Baghdad Destroyed:
In one of the first reprisal attacks from Shi’ite militias following the Samarra shrine bombing, Iraqi police sources said gunmen detonated three Sunni mosques in the town of Iskandariya south of Baghdad, while Sunni militants bombed a small Shi’ite shrine near Khalis in the Diyala governorate.
An unnamed police source in Hilla said unknown gunmen destroyed three Sunni mosques in the religiously mixed town of Iskandariya after rigging them with explosives on Wednesday. The targeted mosques were the Grand Iskandariya mosque, Hutteen and Abdullah mosques. There were no reports of casualties.
In the Thi’aylib village near Khalis north east of Baghdad, suspected Sunni militants planted explosives inside the shrine of Imam Ali Kamal and destroyed it just hours after the Samarra bombing, police said. The area is under the control of the Al-Qaeda-led Islamic State of Iraq militant group.
In Baghdad, gunmen set fire to the Al-Rubai’I mosque in Zayouna, while clashes were reported in the districts of Amil and Bayaa’ in southern Baghdad. The predominately Sunni district of Sulaikh north of Adhamiya was hit with several mortar shells prompting Iraqi security forces to cordon the area.
Baccalaureate Exams Delayed Until Sunday:
As a result of the curfew in the capital and several Iraqi cities, the Iraqi government decided to postpone final exams for high school seniors, which were planned to be held Thursday, to next Sunday, a senior Education Ministry official told the Voices of Iraq news agency.
Uday Al-Khair Allah, director-general in the ministry, said the decision was made after meeting with officials from the interior and defense ministries. “The curfew extends until 9 a.m., when the exams were planned to start, so the ministry decided to postpone the tests to next Sunday,” he said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki had imposed a curfew starting 3 p.m. Wednesday until further notice after a bombing targeted the Askari shrine in Samarra, destroying its two golden minarets. Curfews were also declared in Samarra, Najaf, Hilla and Basrah.
The official Baccalaureate exam for senior high school students in Iraq – for both humanities and science high schools – usually starts after the first week of June each year. Students are accepted into state and private colleges and institutes according to a central system used by the Education Ministry based on their grade averages in the exams.
The exams were first scheduled to start Tuesday, with Islamic Education as the first test, but the ministry delayed them until Thursday after test questions were leaked to students, officials said.