Sistani Calls on Government to fulfill its Duties
Najaf Furious about Bridge Stampede, calls for Investigation
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani on Thursday called on the Iraqi government to “fulfill its legal responsibilities” with regard to the tragic stampede at the al-A’imah Bridge, which led to the deaths of 965 persons. In a statement issued by his office in Beirut, Sistani condemned “the sinful attack to which the holy city of Kadhimiyah was exposed on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Musa b. Jaafar [al-Kadhim].” Expressing his profound grief at the loss of life, he called on “the Iraqi government to shoulder its legal responsibilities with regard to what happened and to clarify all of its circumstances.” He said Iraqis should unite and rob those who would instigate civil turbulence of any opportunity to do so.
His slightly junior colleague in Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ishaq Fayyad, placed the blame for the incident squarely on the Iraqi government and called for the removal of Interior Minister Bayan Jabr Sulagh and the Defense Minister Saadoun Dulaimi. He said, “The government has fallen short with regard to providing security to the pilgrims. It knows that this is an annual pilgrimage and that the number of pilgrims exceeds one million.” He added, “They should have organized the passage of the pilgrims in some better way.” He said it was the responsibility of the government to prevent so many people from congregating on the narrow bridge.” He called for a government investigation, and said that if the ministers of the interior and of defense could not provide security to the people, they should resign. If, he added, they had fallen short in fulfilling their responsibilities, then the prime minister should dismiss them.
Four hundred victims were buried in Najaf.
The governor of Najaf, As’ad Abu Kalal, defended his security arrangements, saying that his main concern had been the infiltration of terrorists into Najaf city, the site of the shrine of Imam Ali, and that he had deployed police and security forces to prevent any such occurrence (successfully).
Young Shiite nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr called off a planned protest in Najaf against the deaths caused by the stampede. He said he had become convinced that the incident had been artificially provoked.
Iran’s Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei blamed “the satanic presence” of US troops for the tragedy and called on Iraq and Syria to make an alliance with Iran in fighting terrorism.
Despite the atmosphere of gloom and mourning throughout Iraq over the tragedy at Kadhimiyah, negotiations continued among politicians over efforts to amend the text of the constitution in order to please the Sunni Arabs and to respond to pressure from Washington for a consensus before the upcoming referendum.
In Basra, guerrillas fired on worshippers Friday morning as they came out of Sunni mosques, killing one man and wounding up to 7 others. Basra is an overwhelmingly Shiite city with a small Sunni Arab minority.