Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Holy Shia shrine bombed in Samarra.

As if we didn't have enough problems already!

The quality of the target and the timing of the attack were chosen in a way that can possibly bring very serious consequences over the country.

The situation in Baghdad is so tense now, it wasn't like this in the early hours of the morning as it took a few hours for the news to spread but on my way back from clinic I saw pickup vehicles with loudspeakers roaming the streets calling on people to shut their stores in the name of the Hawza and join the protests after the noon prayer to condemn the attack on the holy shrine.

Ayatollah Sistani reacted quickly to the escalating anger by issuing a fatwa that forbids his followers from "Taking any action against Sunni sites" obviously to discourage his followers from carrying out retaliatory attacks on Sunni mosques.
Sistani has also demanded a 7 day mourning and to consider it a week off but the government so far has announced only a 3 day official mourning.
Muqtada cut his tour in Lebanon and is heading back to Baghdad, he called on his followers from Beirut to "have self-control and refrain from violence".

Right now there's heavy deployment for the police and other security forces with more frequent checkpoints that are stop-searching cars more often than they usually do.
Sporadic gunfire is heard in different spots in Baghdad but no one knows for sure if the firing meant clashes or mere angry shooting in the air.

From where I'm sitting now I can hear both Sunni and Shia mosques are condemning the attack through their loudspeakers.

I believe there are foreign terror groups behind this attack and I don't think local insurgent would do such a thing, simply because this particular shrine had been in Sunni territory for a thousand years and the residents of Samarra had always benefited from the movement of religious tourism and pilgrimage.

Things look scary here in Baghdad and I hope there won't be more updates to report as I can't see a positive thing coming out of this.

Update 4:30 pm

It seems that I have no choice but to point out a few important updates that I found from the local media as well as my personal observations:

-President Talabani promises to make rebuilding the shrine his personal responsibility and to donate the required money from his own.

-Head of the Sunni endowment sheikh Ahmed al-Samarra'I announces that he will allocate 2 billion dinars (~1.4 million $) for the rebuilding of the shrine from the treasury of the Sunni endowment.

-Huge demonstrations in many of Iraq's provinces including Samarra and Mosul where thousands of people condemned the attack.

-The top 4 Shia Ayatollahs hold a meeting at Sistani's home to discuss the situation.

-The Association of Muslim scholars and the Islamic Party condemn the "criminal act".

-Retaliatory attacks on reportedly 29 Sunni mosques and the Accord Front warns from the consequences of such violent reactions.

-Jafari in a press conference calls for national unity and the leaders of the UIA hold a meeting. A press release is expected to come soon.

-The Iraqi TV opened the phone lines to receive the reactions of the audience to the attack and hosts Sunni clerics and politicians in an attempt to relieve the tension.

-Baghdad is in undeclared emergency situation, shops closed and streets nearly empty.

-Tight security around the shrine of Abu Haneefa in Aazamiya district of Baghdad, this is considered the top shrine/mosque for Sunni Muslims in Iraq.

-Masked gunmen attack Shia protestors in at least one neighborhood in western Baghdad and armed clashes in Ghazaliya and Hay al-A'amil.

-People exchange phones calls with their relatives and friends to check on them and discourage them from leaving their homes.


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