AL-ASKARIYA SHRINE BOMBING
According to the Shiaa faith Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, was succeeded by another 11 Imams. The 13th Imam is unknown but to Allah himself. When human kind or Muslims will be on a verge of catastrophe he will merge and, under God’s guidance, lead the Humanity in the light of true Islam – the Shiaa.
The 10th Imam Ali al-Hadi and his son, the 11th Imam Hassan al-Askari, died in 874, from the early days of the Shiaa faith, are burried in the Al-Askariya shrine in Samarra, Iraq, also known as the “Golden Mosque”. Samarra is located about 125 km North-West of Baghdad in a predominant Sunni region, with mixed Kurds and Arab populations. The massive pilgrimage of devoted Shiites to the Holy Shrine was a major concern for Iraq after USA toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime in 04/2003.
Al Qaeda in Iraq and Abu Musab al Zarqawi strategy was to cause internal chaos, disturbances and sectarian violence in Iraq in order to undermine the USA control over Iraq and to prevent any political progress in American ruled Iraq.
On 02/22/2006 at about 07:00, a group of masked men attacked and took over the Al-Askariya shrine in Samara. After taking over the Mosque the attackers placed several charges and blew up the Golden dome of the shrine and large parts of the holy place. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual head of Iraq’s Shiaa Muslims, has called for a week of mourning but urged Shiites not to attack Sunni Muslims or their holy places.
The attack aroused wide anger among Shiites in Iraq. In the first 24 hours 27 Sunni Mosques in Iraq were attacked and 6 Sunni Muslims killed. In the first week about 1,300 Iraqis were killed in sectarian violence and the country plunged to the verge of sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, just as Abu Musab al Zarqawi almost predicted. Religious leaders in Iraq from both Sunna and Shiaa called upon restraint in order to prevent any further bloodshed.
Despite all the efforts, the next year and a half after the Samarra Mosque bombing, up to 08/2007, were the bloodiest in Iraq since USA invasion in 03/2003. Most of the casualties were from sectarian violence and the attack had the most severe and negative implications then any other single terror attack in Iraq.
About four months after the Al-Askariya shrine attack, on 06/22/2006, Iraqi National security adviser Mowaffaq Al-Rubaie said a Tunisian identified as Yousri Fakher Mohammed Ali, known as Abu Qudama al-Tunisi (from Tunisia) , one of seven men wanted for the attack, was arrested by the authorities. Abu Qudama was wounded in clashes with security forces north of Baghdad, several days earlier, in which 15 other foreign militants were killed. At the news conference in Baghdad, Mr Rubaie said the attack had been masterminded by an Iraqi, Haitham Al-Badri, who was still at large. Haitham Al-Badri also led a group of four insurgents, who kidnapped and killed Atwar Bahjat, a prominent journalist for Al Arabiya satellite television channel as she covered the devastation of the Golden Mosque.
Abu Qudama AL-Tunisi confessed that he was responsible for the attack that destroyed the Al-Askariya shrine in Samarra back in 02/22/2006.
The seven wanted men – all Al Qaeda members – also included another Iraqi, and four from Saudi Arabia.
Hamad Jama al-Saedi, the deputy of Al Qaeda in Iraq was arrested by Iraqi forces in 09/2006. Hamad Jama al-Saedi was behind the Al-Askariya bombing and linked between the operational group and Abu Musab al Zarqawi himself.
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