Sunnis Set Afire, Mosques Attacked
Nearly 100 Killed in Reprisals
Muqtada Challenges Dhari
The death toll in Thursday’s massive assault on Sadr City by Sunni Arab guerrillas has risen above 200. Trains of bodies have been delivered to the Valley of Peace cemetery outside Najaf, which is said to contain 2 million graves.
Friday morning, Shiite militiamen in Sadr City largely ignored clerical calls for restraint and continued to target Sunni Arab neighborhoods with mortar fire.
The Scotsman reports that then the Mahdi Army invaded the mixed Hurriyah district of the capital:
‘ Shiite gunmen took their revenge. One group stormed the Sunni-dominated Hurriya district of Baghdad, burning four mosques and several homes. A police source said 30 people had been killed and 48 wounded. Rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns were used as the militants rampaged through the area.
Imad al-Din al-Hashemi said 14 people had died when the mosque in Hurriya where he had been praying was attacked. He said he had heard of ten deaths in another mosque. “They attacked four mosques with rocket-propelled grenades and machinegun fire,” the university academic said. Six of those killed were grabbed as they left Friday prayers, doused with kerosene and burnt alive near an Iraqi army post. The soldiers did not intervene, according to police. ‘
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that at one point the Mahdi Army rounded up Sunni youths in the District of al-Jamilah and took them to a square and publicly executed them. The Sunni quarter of Adhamiyah took a constant rain of katyusha rockets.
The US military went into Sadr City to contain the Shiite guerrillas. At one point a US aircraft took out a mortar emplacement that was hitting a nearby Sunni quarter. Al-Zaman says that they killed three persons.
Ed Wong of the NYT reports that at the same time, there were heavy sectarian clashes in the city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. The US military raided Sadr’s offices in that city. Soon thereafter Sunni Arab guerrillas blew the offices up. The LA Times says that in response Shiite guerrillas blew up a Sunni mosque.
A Sunni mosque in the northern mixed city of Kirkuk was also damaged by a bomb.
The LA Times adds:
‘ In the southern port city of Basra, rocket-propelled grenades damaged a mosque, the headquarters of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and an apartment complex, injuring 15 people.
In Fallouja, a restive Sunni city in western Al Anbar province, a car bomb exploded at an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing at least six soldiers. ‘
In the northern city of Mosul, 3 bodies were found, according to Al-Zaman.
AP says that 31 bodies were found in Baghdad on Friday, most showing signs of torture.
Young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gave a sermon in Kufa on Friday before a congregation of thousands in which he demanded [Ar.] that Sunni cleric Harith al-Dhari issue fatwas to the following effect:
1. Sunnis must avoid killing Shiites
2. Sunnis must not join al-Qaeda
3. Sunnis must rebuild the Askariyah Shrine at Samarra, destroyed last February. It is dedicated to the Twelfth Imam of the Shiites.
(Aljazeera is running a clip of this part of the sermon, which I’ve seen.)
The government of Nuri al-Maliki has issued a warrant for al-Dhari, the Secretary-General of the Association of Muslim Scholars [Sunni]. Muqtada said he would oppose that warrant if al-Dhari issued these fatwas. Al-Dhari has in the past condemned attacks on Shiites.
Muqtada also renewed his demand that the United States set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
Members of Muqtada’s bloc in Parliament, such as Faleh Hasan Shanshal, have threatened to pull out of the al-Maliki government if the prime minister follows through with his plans to meet US President George W. Bush in Amman on Wednesday. Bush’s spokesman say that the meeting would be held nevertheless. Why US news services feel the need to report the rest of what the spokesman said, especially fairly high up in the article, is beyond me. Nonsense such as that Iraq is not in a civil war or that the violence will be “high on the agenda” at the Amman meeting is only worthy of being ignored or derided. If Bush was able to do anything about the violence in Iraq, he wouldn’t have to meet al-Maliki in the neighboring country of . . . Jordan. I think the Pentagon has concluded that Baghdad is just too dangerous and unpredictable to allow Bush to go there anymore.
Ahmad al-Safi of Karbala, a key agent of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, said in his Friday prayers sermon that any cabinet minister in the al-Maliki government who cannot stop the violence should resign [Ar.]. He said that Iraqis could no longer accept excuses from the ministers of defense and the interior in particular.
In Najaf at the Husayniyah Fatimiyah, Sayyid Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) preached a sermon in which he pointed out that guerrillas have killed 7,000 Iraqis in the past two months but in four years have only killed 2876 foreign troops. “Is this a resistance or a slaughter of the Iraqi people?” he asked. He demanded that neighboring countries expel remnants of the former regime and cease instigating in their media. He also called on Shiites to avoid any “undisciplined” reprisals for the Thursday bombings. [You have to wonder if he thinks the “disciplined” reprisals will be quite enough. SCIRI has a feared paramilitary, the Badr Corps.)
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that in the northern Turkman city of Tal Afar, guerrillas detonated a car bomb and a belt bomb that killed 22 persons and wounded 24. The Sunni Turkmen who form the majority of the population of Tal Afar are complaining that the Iraqi police barged into a Sunni mosque Thursday evening and mistreated the worshippers, even beating some of them. The police are said to be mostly Shiites. The US military invested Tal Afar in August of 2005 in an attempt to stop Sunni Turkmen guerrilla actions there. The US at that time used Kurdish Peshmerga troops as allies and employed Shiite Turkmen as spies and informants. The city of 350,000 is increasingly riven by sectarian and ethnic tensions.