Archive for Saturday, February 19, 2005

Deadly attacks target Shiites

February 19, 2005


— A string of attacks targeting Iraqi Shiites on the eve of one of their holiest days killed at least 32 people Friday, a day after a coalition representing the Shiite majority was confirmed as the winner of Iraq's landmark election.

Stepping up their campaign to sow sectarian discord in the wake of the poll, insurgents struck three mosques, a religious procession and a base for Iraq's National Guard on one of the worst days of bloodshed in and around Baghdad since the election nearly three weeks ago.

The attacks seemed designed to spread fear among Iraq's Shiites as they prepare to commemorate the holy day of Ashoura today, stirring memories of the bloody attacks during last year's celebrations in which more than 180 people died.

In the first of Friday's attacks, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt mingled among worshippers and then blew himself up during prayers at the Khadimain mosque in the southwestern Baghdad suburb of Dora, killing 15 and wounding dozens, according to hospital officials.

Violence had been anticipated during the Shiite festival, and police and National Guard soldiers were out in force on the streets of Baghdad, guarding religious sites and manning checkpoints.

The city's Shiites were also out in force, thronging mosques and marching in the streets, flailing their backs and foreheads in a ritual expression of remorse for the failure of Shiites to go to the aid of their slain leader, Imam Hussein, at the battle of Karbala in 680.

Tight security measures are also in force in the holy city of Karbala, which typically draws thousands of pilgrims to the site of the battle.

Hussein's slaying lost him the chance to assume the caliphate of the Muslim world and precipitated the schism between the Shiite and Sunni branches of Islam.

The differences that have since divided the two communities have grown in the 22 months since the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein was toppled, and the Shiite victory in the recent election seems likely to further deepen the sectarian divide.

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