Sunni-Shiite Violence in Basra Kills 10
Extremist Sunnis called Salafis appear to have been behind the recent bombing of a Shiite mosque in the Abu al-Khasib district in the south of Basra. In response, al-Zaman says that members of the Shiite al-Da`wa party targeted the Basra Salafis and has assassinated 10 of them. Funeral processions have been held for the Salafis in the al-Zubayr area, near the Kuwaiti border, which is largely Sunni. The al-Da`wa party disparages the Salafis (“those who go back to the practice of the first, pious generation of Islam”) as “Wahhabis”, the militant, puritanical branch of Islam popular in Saudi Arabia. In fact, Salafism is a distinct tendency within Sunni Islam and not to be identified as Wahhabism. It is broadly speaking “fundamentalist.” There have been occasional bouts of Sunni-Shiite tension this summer, especially when the Sadrists invaded the Sunni Department of Pious Endowments and stole the records, presumably so that they could take over those properties. In response, 15,000 Sunnis demonstrated in downtown Basra. That there are now mosque bombings and killings is a very bad sign.
James Rupert reports for Newsday that “The nearly six months of British army occupation in Basra has been a season of killing. After riots last month, crime and violence have spiked in September. Hospitals report a rising toll of people killed or injured in carjackings, robberies, feuds and unexplained attacks with guns or grenades. But with U.S. officials and international media focused more on the Sunni-led guerrilla war against U.S. troops in central Iraq, Basra’s violence has gotten little attention.”. (See references below.) The Washington Post today mentioned the assassination of several persons in Basra who had been associated with the Baath Party, probably as reprisal killings by Shiites. It also mentioned that in the north, at Khalidiya, Sunnis had bombed and damaged a Shiite shrine. Some observers keep saying that the expected sectarian tensions and reprisal killings predicted by Nicholas Kristoff and others have never materialized. They appear to be able to say this because they are not paying attention to what is actually happening.