Shrine of Imam Musa al-Kazim Targeted, 60 Killed, 125 Wounded

Update: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Baghdad Saturday morning on a mission to assess the reasons for the recent rise in large-scale bombings.

Two suicide bombers killed 60 persons and wounded 125 outside the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kazim in northern Baghdad on Friday, in an attack that is much more dangerous than the previous horrific bombings this past week in Iraq.

Musa Kazim is the seventh Imam in Shiite belief, and his shrine is sacred to believers. (See explanation all the way at the end at asterisk). Had it been destroyed, Iraq could have seen another paroxysm of Sunni-Shiite violence such as followed on the February, 2006, destruction of the Askariyah shrine in Samarra (tomb of the 10th & 11th Imams and associated with the messianic figure, the Twelfth Imam).

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that security specialists in Iraq are puzzled at the degree of insider knowledge about facilities and schedules exhibited by the bombers in recent days. They had to penetrate three checkpoints to reach the area just outside the shrine of Musa Kazim, for instance. And earlier this week bombers had breached the security of police in the Shiite neighborhood of Karrada, and knew about the schedule of Iranian Shiite pilgrims moving through Muqdadiya. Likewise, the radicals appear to have gotten from somewhere a new supply of high-powered explosives and sophisticated bomb vests.

In contrast, Defense Ministry official Maj. Gen. Abd al-Aziz Muhammad Jasim saw the attacks as opportunistic and as focusing on soft targets, and he said that the days when the Sunni Arab radicals could take and hold territory were over for good.

The area around the shrine, Kadhimiya (in the Iraqi pronunciation, with the “dh” like the English “the”) is largely Shiite and is on the west side of the Tigris, traditionally a more Sunni area (before the Shiites took over many western neighborhoods). It is across a bridge from the strongly Sunni Arab district of Adhamiya, on the eastern side of the Tigris, which is surrounded and sometimes besieged by Shiite neighborhoods. As al-Hayat points out, the bridge between the two neighborhoods had to be closed at the height of the low-intensity ethnic civil war of 2006-2007, and was only recently reopened. Shiites will suspect that the bombers infiltrated across that bridge from Adhamiya, and sectarian tensions are now boiling again.

Al-Hayat adds: Shiite cleric Jalal al-Din Saghir of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq lamented in his Friday sermon that sectarian tensions were again rising. Sunni preacher Mahmud Jawad al-`Isawi said at the mosque attached to the shrine of Sufi great Abd al-Qadir Gilani that there was a danger of going back to “square one” (with regard to security and sectarian relations).

Aljazeerah English reports on the difficulties facing the Iraqi government with regard to national reconciliation of Shiite and Sunni Arabs and Kurds. The recent upsurge in violence is covered.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Friday:

‘ Baghdad

– Two suicide bombers detonated in seconds near the Kadhemiyah shrines in Kadhemiyah neighborhood around noon. At least 60 pilgrims were killed and 125 others were wounded , 25 Iranians were among the killed with 80 others were wounded.

– Around 8:30 p.m. a magnetic bomb detached to a police officer’s car in Saidiyah neighborhood in southern Baghdad on Friday. Major Raad Meki was killed at once and three other people were wounded who were in the area.

Diyala

– A car bomb detonated in Jalwlaa town in northeast Diyala targeting a police patrol around 7:15 p.m. Two people were killed and 26 others were wounded including 6 policemen. ‘

*Shiites hold that after the Prophet Muhammad died, religious and temporal authority in Islam should have passed to his son-in-law, Ali, and then to Ali’s sons with Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet– Hasan and then Husayn. Husayn was martyred in 680 and succeeded by his son, Ali Zayn al-Din. His successor was his eldest son, Muhammad Baqir. The latter was succeeded by Ja`far al-Sadiq, who was the founder of the Twelver Shiite legal tradition. He had two sons, Isma`il and Musa al-Kazim. Initially Isma`il was set to succeed him, but for some reason (the early sources differ on why), he set Isma`il aside in favor of his younger brother, Musa al-Kazim. There was a major schism in Shiite Islam over this succession issue, with some believers insisting on sticking with Isma`il and his descendants, becoming the Ismailis. The Twelver Shiites, who predominate in Iraq and Iran, followed Musa al-Kazim, and they even now maintain that Isma`il died at a young age and so was never appointed Imam in the first place. Musa Kazim is said to have been imprisoned for 4 years by the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid, and Shiite folk tradition maintains that the caliph did in the imam. The Abbasid caliphs were rivals for power with the Shiite Imams.

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