على حافة الهاوية بعد الهجوم
على المراقد المقدسة
أنجلوس تايمز - 14/6/2007
لقد تعرضت المزارات المقدسة
للهجوم مرة أخرى, وقوضت بذلك
الجهود الأمنية المبذولة وزادت
من مخاوف ارتفاع وتيرة العنف
on edge after attack on shrine
major Shiite mosque in Samarra is hit again, undermining
security efforts and raising fears of a jump in violence.
Alexandra Zavis, Times Staff Writer
— The twin explosions Wednesday at one of Iraq's
holiest Shiite Muslim shrines, heavily damaged in an
attack last year, dealt a powerful blow to the U.S.-led
security plan, seen as a last chance to stem sectarian
bloodshed in Baghdad and surrounding areas.
imposed curfews, Iraqis hunkered down in their homes,
and a top U.S. commander said he had a "sinking
feeling" Wednesday after bombs leveled two minarets
at the Golden Mosque in Samarra, 60 miles north of
calls for calm from religious and political leaders,
reports of revenge attacks against Sunni Muslim mosques
began trickling in within hours of the 9 a.m. blasts,
which came nearly 16 months after militants blew up the
Shiite shrine's famed golden dome. The February 2006
blast, viewed as a turning point in the Iraq war,
touched off a wave of reprisal killings and warfare that
left an estimated 34,000 people dead and many more
prospect of a replay of that violence caused panic in
Baghdad, where residents stocked up on food and other
supplies, driving up the black-market price for
gasoline. Huge traffic jams formed as residents tried to
is like a country about to be hit by a hurricane,"
said one Baghdad resident, who gave his name only as
one took responsibility for the attack, although U.S.
officials suggested it bore the hallmark of Sunni
insurgents linked to Al Qaeda. In a TV interview, Army
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq,
said he had a "terrible sinking feeling" when
he heard the mosque had been hit again. But, he told ABC
News, there was reason to hope that the Al Qaeda
terrorist network had overplayed its hand.
it is our hope that this can galvanize the Iraqi leaders
to unite against this form of extremism," he said.
observers took a more grim view.
attack may well prove to be the nail in the coffin of
the security plan," said Joost Hiltermann, Middle
East director of the International Crisis Group.
"Now I think it is time for Plan B."
attack threatened to deepen the crisis besetting Prime
Minister Nouri Maliki's Shiite-led government, which has
been unable to negotiate the political compromises that
U.S. officials believe are needed to win the confidence
of the disaffected Sunni Arab minority that feels
sidelined after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
hours of the blasts, followers of radical Shiite cleric
Muqtada Sadr suspended participation in parliament to
protest the government's failure to protect holy sites.
Sadr's Al Mahdi militiamen have been blamed for many of
the revenge attacks after last year's bombing at the
who toured the ruins Wednesday, also faced a potential
backlash from Shiite radicals who have remained on the
sidelines during the security plan that has sent
thousands of U.S. troops into the capital and adjacent
curfews fell on four volatile cities and reinforcements
moved into Samarra, political and religious leaders on
both sides of the sectarian divide lined up before TV
cameras to appeal for restraint.
military planners had warned that Sunni Arab insurgents
linked to Al Qaeda were planning spectacular strikes to
provoke Shiites back into battle. One senior Pentagon
official specifically named the Samarra mosque in March
when outlining U.S. concerns.
guess is they are going to try a repeat of
Samarra," the official said at the time, speaking
on condition of anonymity because he was discussing
internal planning. "They may go back to Samarra and
say, 'We didn't really level the place.' Imagine that,
perception-wise — to go back to Samarra and finish the
latest attack did almost that. Only the clock tower and
walls were left standing. No casualties were reported.
at the scene said they heard two nearly simultaneous
blasts coming from inside the shrine at 9 a.m., the U.S.
military said in a statement.
blasts kicked up a huge cloud of dust and sent food
tumbling from the shelves at Hatam Khalaf's grocery
store, about 200 yards from the shrine.
went outside to see what happened, and then I saw that
the two minarets were gone. I was stunned," he said
in a telephone interview.
Bush denounced the attack and said he had dispatched
troops to Samarra to help restore order.
barbarous act was clearly aimed at inflaming sectarian
tensions among the peoples of Iraq and defeating their
aspirations for a secure, democratic, and prosperous
country," Bush said in a statement.
in Washington, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow
sought to deflect blame from the U.S. military, noting
that the guarding of Muslim shrines has mostly been
handed over to the Baghdad government.
got to keep in mind, there's a lot of sensitivity about
Americans being on Shia holy sites," Snow said at
his daily briefing in Washington. "The Iraqis, for
understandable reasons, have said, you know, we want to
be able to protect our sites."
blamed the attack on Sunni insurgents linked to both Al
Qaeda and groups loyal to Hussein. But rumors spread
quickly that it was an inside job. Maliki said the
shrine's guards were detained for questioning, and the
Interior Ministry said members of an unspecified
terrorist group also were apprehended in Samarra.
in Samarra imposed an immediate ban on vehicular traffic
and large gatherings. By 3 p.m., Baghdad also was locked
down. Iskandariya, about 25 miles south of Baghdad, and
the southern city of Basra also were under indefinite
think it is clear to everybody that the surge is not
working," said Vali Nasr, a Middle East expert at
the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
"At the end of the day, the U.S. has proven to be
as ineffective at protecting the shrine in 2007 as they
were in 2006…. This favors the whole militia culture
had reported a drop in the number of execution-style
killings of Sunnis, typically blamed on Shiite militias,
at the start of the U.S.-Iraqi troop buildup in
February. But the figures have started to climb again.
Police in Baghdad on Wednesday found the bullet-riddled
bodies of at least 25 men.
Al Mahdi militiamen took to the streets of Sadr City and
other Shiite neighborhoods in east Baghdad, but many of
them dispersed after Sadr issued a statement saying that
Sunni Muslims were not responsible for the latest
anti-U.S. cleric blamed the "hidden hand of the
occupier" and called for three days of national
mourning and peaceful demonstrations.
in Baghdad reported that a Sunni mosque was set on fire
and that mortar rounds killed at least four people in
largely Shiite parts of the city. There were reports of
gunfire aimed at mosques in Basra and Iskandariya, where
a minaret also was reportedly damaged by a
other developments, the U.S. military announced the
deaths of three more service members in the last two
soldier died when his vehicle hit a bomb early Tuesday
in south Baghdad, and a Marine died the same day in
combat in Al Anbar province. Another soldier died Monday
in a blast in east Baghdad. At least 3,513 U.S. troops
have died in the Iraq theater since the U.S.-led
invasion in March 2003, according to the website
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