12/06/2011, 00.00
IRAQ
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Violence in Iraq targets Shiite pilgrims and Christian stores

Death toll of three separate attacks in Baghdad and Hilla, against the Shia community that celebrates the festival of Ashura, rises to 30. Several women and children among the dead. Even attacks on Christian activities in the north. Threatening letters to Baghdad businesses. AsiaNews sources: campaign targeting anything that goes "against Shariah."
Baghdad (AsiaNews) - 30 died in a series of attacks that took place yesterday in central Iraq. The bloodiest attack took place in al-Nil, north of the city of Hilla where a car bomb exploded while a procession was passing, killing 16 people including women and children. Further south, a double attack in two different areas of the capital Baghdad killed at least 11 people, but the toll could worsen. The violence against the Iraqi Shia community in the holy month of Muharram-ul-Haram, which culminates on the feast day of Ashura - the "mourning" of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn in the 7th century – follow on a few days from attacks on Christian shops and activities of in the north (see AsiaNews 03/12/2011 Zakho, Iraqi Islamic extremists attack Christian-owned shops and properties), confirms the climate of insecurity and tension that reigns in the country.

For years in Iraq, during the festival of Ashura there has been a peak in sectarian violence between majority Shi'ite and minority Sunni Muslims, in power at the time of the dictator Saddam Hussein. The tension has been exacerbated with the U.S. invasion in 2003 and the subsequent fall of the regime. For the past two years security has been entrusted only to Iraqi forces, in anticipation of the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country (about 10 thousand men, which will start later this year). Eyewitnesses report that the attack in Hilla hit those who were at the end of the procession: "This was a terrible explosion - refers to a man - you could hear the screams of women, and I saw the bodies of women and children on the ground. "

On December 2, however, Islamic extremists targeted Christian shops and activities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq: in Zakho, 470 miles from Baghdad, near the border with Turkey, a fundamentalist group incited by the local imam’s sermon devastated dozens of liquor stores, a hotel and massage centres, injuring at least 30 people. The attacks have continued even in the following days in Dohok, where three shops and a community centre belonging to Chaldean Christians were burnt.

Christian sources for AsiaNews, anonymous for security reasons, add that "in Baghdad liquor stores are subject to threats", the managers have received threatening letters, which state that the exercise "will be blown up." The attacks are the result of a "campaign" that targets "all that is contrary to Shariah," promoted by Islamists who want to radicalize the country. Unfortunately, the source adds, there is no "moderate movement" capable of containing the fundamentalist drift. "The attacks against Christians in the north - warns the Christian personality - are well prepared and have a purpose: to warn the Kurds against supporting the Syrian resistance." Once again, the Christian community, is an "easy target", a victim of those with higher interest in the "game for the conquest of power." (DS)

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