At least 90 dead, 260 wounded in Iraq attacks on Shias
A resurgent al-Qaeda or Sunni insurgents? Whoever it is, they're trying to reignite sectarian conflict in Iraq by murdering dozens of Shia pilgrims commemorating the death of Mohammed's grandson.
Shortly after midnight Wednesday, a homemade bomb exploded here in the capital, a harbinger of mayhem. Around 5 a.m., a truck bomb exploded in Kadhimiya, a Baghdad neighborhood where Shiite pilgrims had begun to gather to commemorate the life and death of a revered imam who was the Prophet Muhammad's great-grandson. Then, reports of other attacks flooded in from around the country - Samarra, Kirkuk, Mosul, Falluja, Ramadi, Hilla - and by midday officials said more than 90 people were dead and at least 260 were wounded.
The attacks were a reality check for a country that has made substantial steps toward a sense of normalcy. A front-page newspaper article here on Wednesday heralded the return of women to local cinemas. Lately, new red double-decker buses have begun operating in Baghdad, and checkpoints and blast walls have been dismantled, providing some relief to the city's notorious traffic delays. But after the first attacks struck Wednesday morning, security forces closed off roads, lending a sense of siege to the capital that will continue over the next several days leading up to the culmination of the Shiite religious festival on Saturday. In the afternoon, the government declared that Thursday would be a day off so that the army and the police could secure the city.
Helicopters buzzed over Baghdad, and in hospitals, familiar and bloody scenes of grief unfolded. Among the victims in Kadhimiya were people, some of them Sunnis, who had set up tents to serve water and food to the pilgrims.
Iraq is in political crisis - nothing unusual there as it's government is perpetually and irredeemably unable to agree on anything. But the arrest warrant issued for the Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, on terrorism charges has angered Sunnis and attacking Shias appears to be the only strategy they have at this point. They have been frozen out of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who has systematically removed Sunnis from positions of power and responsibility.
Reprisals against the few Sunnis who still live in Iraq will no doubt be swift and bloody.