May 13, 2006

Iraq: Attack on Shi'a mosque near Ba'qubah

Three months after the attack on the Al-'Askari mosque (also known as the Al-Hadi and Golden mosque) in Samarra' that killed 81 people and ignited sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'a Iraqi Arabs, another Shi'a shrine was attacked on May 13. The mosque that was attacked is the Imam 'Abdullah 'Ali Al-Hadi Mosque. located in the village of Wajihiyah, about 20 miles from the tense city of Ba'qubah (30 miles northeast of Baghdad).

What is behind this attack, and why is this mosque of significance?

The mosque in Wajihiyah is the tomb of Imam 'Abdullah 'Ali Al-Hadi. Imam 'Abdullah was the son of the 10th imam of the Shi'a, Imam 'Ali al-Hadi. Imam 'Ali Al-Hadi is buried in the mosque in Samarra' that bears his name along with the 11th imam, Imam Hasan Al-'Askari. The mosque in Samarra' is of major significance to the Shi'a; the mosque in Wajihiyah is important.

These attacks on Shi'a holy places are almost certainly the work of the Mujahidin Shura Council (the umbrella organization that now includes Abu Mus'ab Az-Zarqawi). It has been the stated goal of Az-Zarqawi to foment a civil war between the Sunni and the Shi'a. The February attack in Samarra' came close to doing just that. Although no one was killed in today's attack, it could lead to a new round of sectarian violence that has just started to abate.

This area around Ba'qubah is part of the so-called "Sunni triangle," but most of the the cities and towns have Shi'a residents and even some Kurds. The area has been extremely tense following the Samarra' bombing. The Mujahidin Shura Council is no doubt interested in keeping tensions high.