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    » 09/10/2012, 00.00


    Archbishop of Kirkuk: sectarian violence in Iraq "politically motivated"

    Joseph Mahmood

    A series of attacks across the country leave an estimated 100 dead and over 350 injured. The violent response to the death penalty imposed in absentia on Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Archbishop Sako: divided government, reconciliation project faltering, a fragmented nation and "common" traits with events in Syria, and strong impact of nearby countries. Hopes for peace and future prospects in Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon.

    Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - "The violence is linked to sectarian and confessional tensions, the attacks are of a political nature, I do not think they involve the local mafia or terrorist groups close to Islamic fundamentalism", says Msgr. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk in northern Iraq commenting on the wave of attacks that bloodied the country yesterday, causing nearly one hundred dead and over 350 injured in 20 separate episodes. The attacks are coupled with the death penalty imposed in absentia on Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, for organizing death squads responsible for at least 150 killings. "The attacks - adds the prelate speaking to AsiaNews - are politically motivated, with characteristics in common with developments in Syria and the events in the Middle East". In this bleak framework, plagued by a never-ending spiral of violence, comes the Pope's visit to Lebanon September 14 to 16, which for the Church is now "an opportunity to encourage the building of bridges of dialogue and peace, especially with Muslims . Though, at the moment, everything appears difficult, if not almost blocked by the political situation. "

    Yesterday a series of attacks targeted different districts in Baghdad's Shiite majority areas, in response to the death penalty imposed on Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. It was one of the "bloodiest" days of the year, with more than 100 deaths across the country in addition at least 350 injured in provisional estimates. The attacks swept the capital, Kirkuk in the north, Amara in the south-east, Dujail north of Baghdad, Nasiriyah in the south of the country and other minor episodes in Baquba, Basra, Samarra and Tuzkhurmatu.

    The violence erupted not long after the condemning in absentia for Vice-President al-Hashemi, leader of the Sunni minority, accused of organizing death squads responsible for at least 150 victims. Until last December, when charges were laid, he was the political point of reference for the Sunni faction within the Iraqi government, supported by a large Shia majority. He took refuge in the autonomous region of Kurdistan in the north, then fled to Qatar and finally Turkey. During the trial in the capital, some close collaborators admitted that in the past the vice-president himself ordered dozens of murders. Critics speak of "politically motivated charges", but AsiaNews sources say that "there is evidence that appears to prove he is not innocent."

    "At the root of these attacks - said Msgr. Sako - is a strong tension between the Shiite majority and the Sunni faction and this violence is clearly sectarian and confessional in nature." In Kirkuk alone, the archbishop continued, there were four targeted killings of innocent people. "The aim - says the prelate - is to destabilize the country" because "the central government lacks unity and political force even within the same Shiite majority. There is great tension, there is no dialogue between groups and greater barriers are emerging ".

    In fact, the archbishop of Kirkuk observes that the Middle East "is like a volcano" and the effects of the crisis affecting the countries that form the region affect even Iraq. In this context, Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon becomes even more important: "We are waiting for words of hope from the  Pope - says the Archbishop - and encouragement for the Church, which must build bridges of peace and dialogue with everyone, but especially with Muslims" . He confirms that "the exodus of the Christian community" Iraq "continues and affects areas where they live in peace. Little is being done to help them to remain in the country of origin, rather they are being encouraged to leave."

    "We need a real dialogue - Msgr. Sako concludes - between the Churches of the Middle East and serious and deep analysis of the reality, providing solutions and future plans, we need concrete steps to restore confidence and a vision of the future of Christians in region and the Middle East. "



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    See also

    18/11/2010 IRAQ
    Archbishop Sako: the death penalty for Aziz and others is only an act of revenge
    After Talabani refused to sign the death sentence for Tareq Aziz, the archbishop of Kirkuk invites him to pardon similar sentences: Saddam's former officers now in prison are no longer a danger to the country.

    24/02/2012 IRAQ
    Bloodbath in Iraq, 55 dead and 225 wounded. Al Qaeda claims killing
    The Islamic State of Iraq has hit "the security forces and officials" to "avenge the campaign of eliminations and torture" in prisons. Over the past two months sectarian violence has intensified. Behind the attacks of a power struggle between majority Shi'ite and Sunni Arab bloc.

    11/03/2008 IRAQ
    Silence must not descend on Archbishop of Mosul
    The appeal was launched by the Archbishop of Kirkuk, 12 days on from Msgr. Rahoo’s abduction. To the Bishops and Christians of the world: “do not remain indifferent to this suffering, do not leave us alone to face this trial”. Amid increased fears, today in Kirkuk 15 Muslim leaders ask once again that the prelate be released.

    24/04/2009 IRAQ
    Two attacks in Baghdad kill 60, country on the edge of civil war
    Two female suicide bombers attack an important Shia mosque in the capital. At least 60 people are killed and 125 wounded. Sources tell AsiaNews that it is “war” in the capital with mortars, bazookas and bombs. Fighting is taking place in Kirkuk over oil.

    31/07/2008 IRAQ
    Christians and Muslims show solidarity for Kirkuk attack victims
    In the company of Sunni and Shia religious leaders as well as tribal leaders, Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, today visited in hospital the people injured in last Monday’s bomb attack. This initiative represents an additional signal of the common desire for peace and mutual forgiveness.

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