Update: Samarra Catastrophe

The developing situation in Iraq is moving too fast and filling more column inches than a roundup can satisfy. Here is a summary of the blog events since Thursday. It is at times like this you can see that blogging comes into its own above other journalism. There is no other medium that can give you the feel of people's opinions and emotions in almost real time.

Word from the Street:

Zeyad of increasingly misnamed Healing Iraq is in the thick of the fighting and is updating regularly:

Fierce streetfighting at my doorstep for the last 3 hours. Rumor in the neighbourhood is that men in black are trying to enter the area. Some armed kids defending the local mosque three blocks away are splattering bullets at everything that moves, and someone in the street was shouting for people to prepare for defending themselves. … The news from other areas in Baghdad are horrible. I don't think it's being reported anywhere.

But fortunately:

UPDATE: Apparently, the attackers were fended off in our neighbourhood. The fight ended about 2 hours ago, about the same time electric power returned to our area. Now we are only hearing sporadic gunshots here and there. To have an idea of what was going on, listen to these small audio files I recorded using a cell phone.

He also posts detailed mosque by mosque updates and maps showing where violent incidents have happened in the past three days.

Christopher Allbritton reports a large armed but peaceful demonstration marching towards the Interior Ministry at 4pm on Friday. He follows this with reports of Sunni's hitting back against Shi’a neighborhoods and religious sites.

Iraq the Model [sic] gives some reports of Thurdays events and observes:

The sense in the streets and the statements given by some Shia clerics suggest that retaliation attacks are organized and under control and are focusing on mosques frequented by Salafi and Wahabi groups and not those of ordinary Sunnis.

Mohammed also adds that most people are blaming the Mahdi Army for carrying out many of the attacks.

Truth About Iraqis gets through on Yahoo to his cousin who says “It looks like a civil war, the situation is really bad.” He also worries for fellow bloggers who live in Baghdad. He also reports from the Arabic and Western media.

Riverbend reports from her neighbourhood:

The streets near our neighborhood were eerily empty and calm but there was a tension that had us all sitting on edge. We heard about problems in areas like Baladiyat where there was some rioting and vandalism, etc. and several mosques in Baghdad were attacked. I think what has everyone most disturbed is the fact that the reaction was so swift, like it was just waiting to happen. … I don’t think I remember things being this tense- everyone is just watching and waiting quietly. There’s so much talk of civil war and yet, with the people I know- Sunnis and Shia alike- I can hardly believe it is a possibility. Educated, sophisticated Iraqis are horrified with the idea of turning against each other, and even not-so-educated Iraqis seem very aware that this is a small part of a bigger, more ominous plan…

Pointing fingers:

Several bloggers point out the calculted way in which the shrine was bombed. Baghdad Dweller analyses the method:

The one who did this, entered the mosque comfortably carrying explosions, he had all the time to study the construction of the building and find the perfect angles to set the explosions in a way that only the dome will be destroyed. This is a professional, controlled demolition and the bombs set by demolition experts.

The Woman I Was notes:

Samara had been sieged by the American and Iraqi forces for months; no body could enter the city without permission; how those who planted the explosives in the holy shrine managed to stay in it from 5.45pm Tuesday till 7am of the black Wednesday?

She goes on to list who has the most to gain:

Who will get benefits of a civil war in Iraq? Kurds are the first; because Barzani said before months that he will announce his independent state as soon as a civil war will begin… the Americans, again to protect the Iraqis!! And the political “leaders” who are becoming wealthiest day after another from the chose in Iraq… Bush, as usual without feeling any shame, said on the day when tens of mosques were burning and tens were being killed that Iraqis are enjoying the freedom of media and speech!!

Zeyad comments that the Shi'ite parties have much to gain:

The timing of this incident is very ominous. Just as pressure was being mounted on the UIA to form a more inclusive government, and to disband its sectarian militias, we have this. I normally don’t resort to conspiracy theories, and I don’t like the ‘Who gets to benefit from this?’ explanations. People often commit stupid actions for stupid reasons, and lashing out in violence is also a very human reaction. But still, the extent and the spontaneity of the violence are deeply troubling.

He also relates Eyewitness reports that contradict the official story: “that American and Iraqi Interior ministry forces blocked the main street leading to the shrine at 9 pm on the night preceding the blast. It was opened again at dawn Wednesday and the troops pulled out of the area.” and “Another eyewitness … claims that 2 Iranians were arrested yesterday, and that the Al-Arabiya channel crew had filmed them.”

Truth About Iraqis blames America:

This has to be the most corrupted incompetent government ever assembled by US foreign policy. It doesn't function on so many different levels.But then again, this government was never about governance, but sowing dissent. This dissent was planted in the early days by the Iraq Governing Council and now it is bearing fruit.

Iraqi Pundit points to the media:

Iraqis have been working hard to avoid a real civil war in the midst of suicide bombings, killings and kidnappings. But the media prefer to ignore these efforts and instead choose to focus on the agressive acts of Moktada Al Sadr's gang.

And The Baghdad Alcohol Sponge has a rare moment of lucidity:

I actually checked the word on the street with the Iraqis. They are all saying the same–that its the Saudis sending people in to fire it up with the Sunni and Shia. And since Iran is against the Saudis–they're using the locals too. Kinda like the US and Soviet Union over Vietnam.

Final Words go to:

24 Steps to Liberty:

I was amazed how only the provocative and civil-war-style quotes were published today in the newspapers. Almost no newspaper showed how great, it appeared to us, the solidarity among Iraqis was yesterday. It is true that Sunni mosques were attacked by unknown men yesterday, and some Sunnis were killed. But that wasn’t the only thing happened as a reaction. Newspapers should have been neutral, as we were taught, and show both sides. … All expect civil war in Iraq, which might happen although I don’t believe it would. Therefore, they want to contribute to the civil war’s first step. Shame on you all! Shame on the “free and honest” press!

and An Iraqi Tear:

The Iraqis and the nobles of the world should curse Bush, Blair and every body who are observing the Iraqi bloods without trying to stop it.
I am shouting WAKE UP WORLD again; WAKE UP IRAQIS.
The tears are insisting to make me stop writing… PRAY FOR US.
Why those who are burning the mosques did not curse the American and the (Iraqi) forces when these bloodies bombed Imam Ali holy shrine? Why no body is cursing those who attacked the shrine of Malik Bin Anas in Basra who was one of the earliest followers of our prophet Mohammed (MPUH)… why no body is trying to find the link between the cartoons attacking the prophet and exploding the holy shrine?


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