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Old 02-22-2006, 10:00 AM
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Oopsie, thing's just went from bad to worse

February 22, 2006
Blast Destroys Golden Dome of Sacred Shiite Shrine in Iraq
By EDWARD WONG

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 22 - Insurgents dressed as police commandos detonated powerful explosives this morning inside one of Shiite Islam's most sacred shrines, destroying most of the building, located in the volatile town of Samarra, and prompting thousands of Shiites to flood into streets across the country in protest.

The golden-domed shrine housed the tombs of two revered leaders of Shiite Islam and symbolized the place where the Imam Mahdi, a mythical, messianic figure, disappeared from this earth. Believers in the imam say he will return when the apocalypse is near, to cleanse the world of its evils.

The blast took place at about 7 a.m. and shook the city of Samarra, a Sunni-dominated area that is nevertheless sacred to Shiites. The gunmen entered the shrine and handcuffed guards in the building, then set about planting the explosives, an official of the provincial governorate said. There were no immediate reports of casualties, but the golden dome was entirely destroyed, as well as three-quarters of the structure.

Samarra has long been one of the most violent cities in Iraq, and American forces there have struggled to contain a virulent Sunni-led insurgency. The American military has tried various offensives, only to have insurgents regroup and carry out further strikes. The Americans have also had little success in propping up Iraqi security forces in the town.

Shiites protestors took to the streets shortly after the explosion. In Baghdad, militiamen loyal to radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who is a fervent believer in the prophecy of the Imam Mahdi, drove through the streets of Sadr City with Kalashnikovs, many accusing the Americans of carrying out the attack.

In the holy city of Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq, called for a period of mourning and asked that government offices be closed for the next three days.

The attack came after two days of vicious bloodshed and political turmoil. The Iraqi prime minister on Tuesday angrily denounced the growing American pressure to form an inclusive government, as a car bomb in a bustling market here killed at least 21 people and wounded dozens more, most of them women and children.

The explosion took place in the evening, with shoppers crowded into the Abu Cheer market on a Shiite block of southern Baghdad. Many women in flowing black robes had brought their children along. Hospital wards quickly filled with wailing victims, wiping blood from their faces or clutching limbs shredded by shrapnel.

"I noticed that a woman had lost her hand because of the explosion, and many of the bodies were burned," said Zuhair Ali Mudhair, 18, as he sat on the edge of a gurney in Yarmouk Hospital, with cloth bandages wrapped around his head and arm, and dried blood on his T-shirt. "Some of the kids were completely burned from the fire."

The violence on Monday, which killed at least 26 people, and the marketplace bombing and other attacks on Tuesday, which killed 28 people, signaled that a period of relative calm during political talks had come to an abrupt end.

Negotiations over the formation of a new government are taking place slowly and with much acrimony. Parties representing Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds are jockeying for control of various ministries and making demands on several crucial issues, like changing the makeup of the population around the northern oil fields.

The volatility of the political process was exacerbated Monday by suggestions from Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq, that the United States might decrease financial help to a government that excluded some sects and ethnic groups.

His comments were a veiled attack on Shiite leaders, some of whom have been accused of widening sectarian rifts in the past year by supporting government death squads that have kidnapped, tortured and killed Sunni Arabs.

On Tuesday, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister and a conservative Shiite, scoffed at Mr. Khalilzad's remarks. "When we are asked, 'Do you want the government to be sectarian?' our answer is 'no,' " Mr. Jaafari said. "Not because the U.S. ambassador says this and warns us, but because this is our policy."

He added, "We think that sovereignty means no one interferes in our affairs."

Mr. Jaafari's comments came at a news conference shortly after Iraqi leaders met with Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary. Mr. Straw, too, demanded that the Iraqis form an inclusive government. The Bush administration wants a significant number of Sunni Arabs chosen for cabinet positions, in the hope that political engagement will help defuse the Sunni-led insurgency.

A two-thirds vote by the 275-member Parliament, the National Assembly, is needed to form the government, and the Shiite and Kurdish blocs could muster enough votes to shut out the main Sunni Arab parties if they persuaded some independent legislators or just a handful of Sunnis to vote with them.

Mr. Straw expressed disapproval of that strategy on Tuesday. "We had the elections on Dec. 15," he said after meeting with Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president and a Kurd. "We've now had the final accredited results. What they show is that no party, no ethnic or religious grouping, can dominate government in Iraq."

Mr. Straw also noted that an investigation was under way into an episode in January 2004 in which British soldiers apparently abused young, unarmed Iraqi men. The beatings took place in the southern city of Amara during a protest and were made public earlier this month when a British newspaper released a videotape taken by a soldier.

Mr. Talabani said at the news conference with Mr. Straw that the Sunnis and Kurds were still discussing whether to form a supervisory council that would oversee the running of the government, operating parallel to the cabinet and acting as a check on the power of the Shiites. Shiite leaders have vociferously rejected the idea. "I think there is a serious and brotherly discussion, and I expect we will reach a result soon," Mr. Talabani said of the proposed council.

Iraqi politicians and American officials say they do not expect a government to be formed until the spring.

The marketplace explosion on Tuesday evening took place in the dangerous neighborhood of Dora, where criminal gangs operate at will and sectarian killings occur daily. A police commander said the explosives were in a pickup truck parked in a Shiite area.

Earlier, four Iraqi Army recruits were killed by gunmen in the northern city of Kirkuk. A roadside bomb killed two Iraqi commandos and wounded four in Baghdad in the afternoon, and another concealed bomb killed a policeman in the morning, an Interior Ministry official said. A civilian was killed by a bomb on Monday night in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad, the official said.

The police in Dora found a dead body on Tuesday morning with a letter in his pocket that said, "This is the destiny of the terrorists who kill innocents."

  #2  
Old 02-22-2006, 10:10 AM
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Zeit maniacally rubs hands together in barely concealed delight
  #3  
Old 02-22-2006, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Azimyth
Zeit maniacally rubs hands together in barely concealed delight
My schadenfreude gland is swollen, and pulsing slightly.
  #4  
Old 02-22-2006, 08:26 PM
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Oopsie, another cut-n-pastie

Blast Destroys Shrine in Iraq, Setting Off Sectarian Fury
By ROBERT F. WORTH

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 22 — A powerful explosion shattered the golden dome of one of Iraq's most revered Shiite shrines this morning, setting off a day of almost unparalleled sectarian fury in cities and towns across Iraq as protesting mobs took to the streets to chant for revenge and set fire to dozens of Sunni mosques.

The bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, left its famous golden dome in ruins but injured no one, and only a handful of people appear to have been killed in the widespread street protests and violence that ensued.

But the shrine has enormous significance for Shiites, and its destruction — coming after two days of bloody attacks that left dozens of Shiite civilians dead — ignited a nationwide outpouring of rage and panic that sharply underscored Iraq's sectarian divide.

Shiite militia members flooded the streets of Baghdad, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at Sunni mosques as Iraqi Army soldiers — called out to stop the violence — stood helpless nearby. By the day's end, mobs had struck 27 Sunni mosques in the capital, killing three imams and kidnapping a fourth, Interior Ministry officials said.

In the southern Shiite city of Basra, Shiite militia members destroyed at least two Sunni mosques, killing an imam, and launched an attack on the headquarters of Iraq's best-known Sunni Arab political party. In Samarra, thousands of people crowded the courtyard of the Golden Mosque, some weeping and kissing the stones, others angrily chanting "Our blood and souls we sacrifice for you imams!"

President Bush issued a statement today extending his sympathy to Iraqis for the bombing.

"The United States condemns this cowardly act in the strongest possible terms," Mr. Bush said in Washington. "I ask all Iraqis to exercise restraint in the wake of this tragedy, and to pursue justice in accordance with the laws and constitution of Iraq."

All of Iraq's major political and religious leaders issued their own urgent appeals for restraint, and Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari called for a three-day mourning period in a televised appearance. Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric, released a statement in which he said, "If the government's security forces cannot provide the necessary protection, the believers will do it."

The shrine bombing came after days of mounting violence aimed mostly at Shiite civilians, as Iraq's political leaders are struggling — with little success — to agree on the principles of a new national unity government. Insurgents have often struck during moments of political transition in the past, in apparent efforts to foment further conflict between Iraq's Shiite, Kurdish, and Sunni Arab political factions.

Most Iraqi leaders attributed the attack to terrorists bent on exploiting sectarian rifts. But in a striking break from the past, the leader of Iraq's main Shiite political alliance said he thought Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq, was partly to blame for the bombing of the shrine.

The Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al Hakim, said he thought Mr. Khalilzad's public comments on Monday, in which he drew attention to apparent death squads operating within Iraq's Shiite-led Interior Ministry, were a provocation to the bombing. He did not explain how.

"This declaration gave a green light for these groups to do their operation, so he is responsible for a part of that," Mr. Hakim said of the ambassador, at a news conference called to condemn the shrine bombing.

The renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia led many of the violent protests today, also placed some blame on what he called the "occupation forces" for the bombing, in comments to Al Jazeera Television. Mr. Sadr told the network he was cutting short a trip to Lebanon because of the shrine attack, and called on the new Iraqi Parliament, which includes 32 of his followers, to meet and vote on a request for coalition forces to leave Iraq.

The attack in Samarra began at 7 a.m., when a group of a dozen men dressed in paramilitary uniforms entered the shrine and handcuffed four guards who were sleeping in a back room, said a spokesman for the provincial governor's office. The attackers then placed a bomb in the dome and detonated it, collapsing most of the dome and heavily damaging an adjoining wall.

The shrine is one of four major Shiite shrines in Iraq, and two of the 12 imams revered by mainstream Shiites are buried in it: Ali al-Hadi, who died in 868 A.D., and his son, the 11th imam, Hassan al-Askari. According to legend, the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, went into hiding near the shrine, and Shiites believe he will return before the Day of Judgment to bring justice to a fallen world.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but some Iraqi officials quickly pointed a finger at Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the jihadist group that is believed to be responsible for many of the attacks on Shiite civilians and mosques in the past two years.

Samarra's population is mostly Sunni Arab, and it was a haven for insurgents until 2004, when American and Iraqi troops carried out a major operation to retake the city (and the Golden Mosque) from guerrilla fighters. But the insurgents have filtered back since then, and American troops in and around the city are now regularly attacked.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Sabrina Tavernise, Mona Mahmoud, Khalid al Ansary, Omar al Neami, and Qais Mizher in Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times in Basra, Kirkuk, Najaf, and Karbala.
  #5  
Old 02-22-2006, 08:28 PM
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I would applaud a civil war at this point, we can arm the guys we want and watch the fireworks from a far.
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Old 02-22-2006, 08:33 PM
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Hey cool, you've taken US imperialism 101, too.
  #7  
Old 02-22-2006, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by H2O2
Hey cool, you've taken US imperialism 101, too.

I saw the Phantom Menace too.
  #8  
Old 02-22-2006, 08:45 PM
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Let's wait and see what "El Rushbo" thinks about it before we Rush to conclusions!

I just hope noboby draws a cartoon about it!!
  #9  
Old 02-22-2006, 09:00 PM
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Quote:
Believers in the imam say he will return when the apocalypse is near, to cleanse the world of its evils.
who would have ever thought he would have been in the form of shrub?
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  #10  
Old 02-22-2006, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by engatwork
who would have ever thought he would have been in the form of shrub?

That would be the second time.

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  #11  
Old 02-22-2006, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by H2O2
My schadenfreude gland is swollen, and pulsing slightly.
Careful, I understand that acivity can cause dimness
  #12  
Old 02-22-2006, 11:54 PM
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A civil war there would renders our efforts worthless, turning back whatever progress has been made. Naturally, of course, the whole thing would be the fault of the US for trying to create a world there that the masses simply don't grasp. Next thing we'll see Sadam released from jail to resume control.
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  #13  
Old 02-23-2006, 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by H2O2
Hey cool, you've taken US imperialism 101, too.
Wouldn’t we provide arms to both sides because of the demands of our arms manufacturers to make more $$$
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Old 02-23-2006, 01:24 AM
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Worthless is an apt way of describing the entire sordid affair

Quote:
Originally Posted by raymr
A civil war there would renders our efforts worthless, turning back whatever progress has been made. Naturally, of course, the whole thing would be the fault of the US for trying to create a world there that the masses simply don't grasp. Next thing we'll see Sadam released from jail to resume control.
Progress? What progress would there be to "turn back"? Yes, any rational person would naturally draw the conclusion that the whole fiasco is the fault of the US--that was an elective war initiated at the time and place of George Bush's (or, more correctly, his handlers') choosing.
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Old 02-23-2006, 03:45 AM
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What navel gazing imperialists like Cheney (I believe they'll welcome us with open arms.... ) don't get is that A - holes like Saddam are the product of the culture and climate they're found in. These things don't change over night with just a dash of fairy dust sprinkled by the Dubbers.

Civil war is all but inevitable, already happening on a low simmer basis, and if it goes all out, oh man, those pipelines and oil fields ain't going to running at top efficiency, to say the least.

Broken, but not yet owned.

Did you catch the Frontlines show "The Insurgency?" Sobering stuff. They said it'll be available online in a few days:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/insurgency/

**EDIT** Whoops, I think I've got the Cheney quote wrong. "Welcome us as liberators" perhaps?

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Last edited by cmac2012; 02-23-2006 at 01:18 PM.
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