Friday, February 18, 2005

The Second Ashoura Attacks

They knew it was coming. The Scotsman reports:

Iraq partially sealed its land borders today as part of stepped up security on the eve of the holiest day of the Shiite Muslim calendar as violence persisted unabated around the country. Iraq's fledgling government is hoping to avert the bloodshed that marred Ashoura last year, when twin blasts ripped through crowds of worshippers at Shiite Muslim shrines in Baghdad and Karbala, killing at least 181 people.

The precautions weren't good enough. According to the UK Times, "As many as 30 people are believed to have died in an suicide bombing during Friday prayers at a Shia mosque in Baghdad today. A further 22 people have been wounded, although that total is expected to rise."

Ireland Online says the attack was carried out by a 'suicide bomber', and now a second attack has taken place.

"In the first blast this morning, a suicide bomber killed about 30 people when he blew himself up outside one of Baghdad's main Shiite mosques during Friday prayers, a National Guard officer said. The attack took place near the al-Khadimain mosque in the capital's Dora district, Lieutenant Ahmad Ali said."

These mirror the twin attacks on the same occasion last year which took the lives of 181 people. Much of the press at that time reported that Iraqis blamed America for 'failing to provide security'. A contemporaneous Christian Science Monitor article said, "many Shiites, reeling from the bloodiest day in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled from power, were swift to pin blame on the US and 'outsiders.'" At the time the US suspected Abu Musab Zaraqawi of carrying out the attacks. It will be interesting to see what the reaction will be this time.

Although the loss of life has been heavy, it has not been as bad as the Ashoura carnage of 2004 -- so far --  possibly due to the precautions taken in anticipation.