An expected surge in violence accompanying a major Shi’ite religious observance this week began early this morning. Hilla and Baghdad were the hardest hit cities. Across the country, at least 36 people were killed and 121 more were wounded in all reported attacks. Also, the Iraqi government said that a former top diplomat under Saddam Hussein will be executed next year. Meanwhile, security for American diplomats has been tightened.
Because it honors the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, Ashura has long been a target for sectarian attacks. It had been banned during the Saddam regime. In 2007 and 2008, two, almost cult-like, sects in the south produced a large volume of holiday-related violence. The Imam was the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, and his death was a major influence in the schism between Shi’ites and Sunnis. His shrine is in Karbala; observances culminate tomorrow. It is possible, that reports tomorrow will be somewhat muted because of the holy day.
Iraqi officials say that Tariq Aziz, who has served as both deputy prime minister and foreign minister, will be executed next year after U.S. troops leave Iraq. Aziz, who is a Chaldean Catholic, was given the death sentence in connection with a Shi’ite uprising, but many still believe that that he had no role in the crackdown. His death sentence has brought international condemnation, and one of Aziz’s lawyers warned that this would undermine reconciliation.
The Naqshabandiya Army promised to continue attacks on U.S. personnel who remain in Iraq after the withdrawal of military forces at the end of this month. Separately, American diplomats learned of a serious kidnapping threat.
In Hilla, a car bomb targeting pilgrims killed 16 and wounded 46 more at a mosque in the al-Nil district. Women and children were among the victims. An attack involving two roadside bombs killed six pilgrims and wounded 15 more at a separate procession in al-Taghmaziya. Babel province imposed a curfew.
In Baghdad, at least eight people were killed in and 18 more were wounded during Ashuraa-related attacks in Ur. Three people were killed and eight more were wounded during a blast in Mashtal. In Qahira, a blast wounded six. Two more people were wounded in Sleikh. Four more people were wounded in Zaafaraniya.Four people were wounded in a bombing in Shabb. In Ilam and Amil, five people were wounded in another blast.
A blast in Mahmoudiya left one person killed and three more wounded.
Two people were killed and four were wounded during a bombing in Latifiya.
A student was kidnapped in Kirkuk.
A bomb in al-Zaab damaged a car.
Yazidi Iraqis in Duquq province have intensified security after Kurdistan leader Massoud Barzani said recent riots in Kurdistan focused on Yazidis and Christians. Christian leaders also condemned the attacks against their businesses.
Diyala implemented a curfew and increased security for the Ashuraa observances.