At least 100 people have been killed in the 24 hours following Wednesday’s bombing of al Askari mosque — one of the holiest shrines for the Shia — in Samarra, Iraq.
Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi is sounding alarm with the statement: “This is as 9/11 in the United States.”
Not just any old place of worship, the golden mosque is connected to the 12th and final Shi’ite imam, who Shias believe went into hiding in the 9th century under the Askariya mosque. Believers await a messiah-like return of this hidden imam.
Historian Juan Cole, commenting on the CBC’s “As it Happens,” compared the significance of the site to the Sistine Chapel in describing the extent of the terror achieved in such an attack — believed to be the first major bombing of a religious shrine in Iraq since the war began.
At least seven mosques have been bombed throughout Iraq since Wednesday, according to Major General Rick Lynch, spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq.
President Bush has condemned the attack as grotesque, but many hold the United States at least partially accountable for the attack. Despite the apparent lack of security allowing such an attack, it is believed that the bombing came in response to U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad’s threat this week that the U.S. would pull its support from the country should fail to work together andn remain sharply sectarian.
A journalist with Al-Arabiya Television and two of her crew were killed on their way to reporting from the destroyed shrine.
The ever-prominent Shi’ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr is prepared for all-out civil war in response to the bombing. His Mehdi army is responsible for many of the killings in the aftermath of the bombing. There were no fatalities in the bombing itself, and no group has claimed responsibility.