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[casi] Saddams men kill 40 in mosque fight,,2089-307392,00.html?gavalidate

  The Sunday Times - World

May 26, 2002

Saddams men kill 40 in mosque fight
Marie Colvin

IRAQIS worshipping at one of Islams holiest shrines were attacked by
Saddam Husseins security forces earlier this month in one of the worst
examples of the oppression suffered daily by civilians living under his

While international attention remains largely focused on Saddams chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons programmes, which threaten those outside his
borders, little is known of the suffering of his population because the
president controls the countrys media with his characteristic iron grip.

However, news of his forces onslaught against worshippers at the shrine of
Imam Hussein in Karbala, which left up to 40 people dead, has filtered out
some survivors escaped to the relative freedom of Kurdistan, the no-fly zone
patrolled by American and British planes in northern Iraq.

The attack happened on the anniversary of the death of Hussein, the grandson
of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Hussein was killed in the
city of
Karbala in the 7th century with 72 of his followers. He is particularly
revered by
followers of the Shiite branch of Islam, who mark the anniversary with
rites that include beating themselves publicly to show their sorrow.

Thousands of Iraqis travel each year to the blue-tiled mosque in Karbala,
where Hussein is buried. This year, security forces were out in strength as
worshippers converged on the city, which Iraqi observers believe is a sign
Saddams increasing worry about his restive Shiite population.

Saddam and his regime are Sunni, the minority branch of Islam in Iraq. In
1991, after Iraqs defeat in the Gulf war, the Shiite Muslims, who
predominate in
the south, led a revolt that was brutally crushed by the Republican Guard.

Abu Fadi, whose full name is being withheld for fear of reprisals against
family, said by satellite telephone from Kurdistan that the security forces
made the journey to Karbala difficult before the violence at the mosque.
Iraqi sources independently confirmed the events he described.

He left his neighbourhood of Baghdad, a poor, largely Shiite area, at 6am
with his two sons, aged seven and five, and joined other men packed into a
minibus that was to travel to Karbala.

The bus was twice stopped at checkpoints manned by a mixture of regular
soldiers, members of the ruling Baath party in their distinctive uniform
plainclothes security officials. Everyone in the bus was searched, as were
in the flood of vehicles heading south to Karbala, a journey that usually
about an hour.

Abu Fadi and his sons got as far as Aoun, seven miles short of Karbala, when
they reached a barricade made with barrels and a long pole. It was manned by
security forces, who barred the vehicles and told passengers they would
at their own risk.

I thought maybe I should turn back, because I had my two young sons with
me, Abu Fadi said. But we had already travelled so far, and I wanted to
the shrine of Imam Hussein, so I said, Let us continue walking. Thousands
people did the same. The road was very crowded.

After little more than half a mile, the road became difficult to walk upon 
security forces had spread a thick layer of sand sprayed with water.
vehicles drove by on the edge of the road, but did not turn people back.

Abu Fadi and his sons finally reached the mosque at 1pm, after stopping to
rest several times. As he neared the shrine, he grew frightened. Inside the
mosque, soldiers were stationed with guns, a sacrilege that angered many in
crowd. When young men began beating their chests as a sign of the emotion
felt at nearing the burial place of Hussein, the soldiers attacked.

They began beating the people with the butts of their Kalashnikovs and
megwaor (sticks with nails embedded at the end), Abu Fadi said. Everyone
panicked. It seemed to me there was blood everywhere  screams and blood.

He said he managed to crouch in an alcove where men leave their shoes when
they enter the mosque. He saw at least seven people who he believes had been

One young man looked like he was sitting with his back to the wall but you
could tell he was dead, said Abu Fadi, whose shocked sons escaped with him.
head was bloodied and his eyes were staring open. He was not breathing.

Not a word of the incident was officially reported, but several sources in
Karbala and Baghdad put the death toll at 40, based on reports from the
in the city.

The whole country has to celebrate the birthday of Saddam Hussein whether
want to or not, said Abu Fadi. Why should I be prohibited from celebrating
death of my Imam Hussein, this holy man?

Iraqi sources said hit-and-run attacks on Saddams forces in the south had
now increased to the point where even heavily armed Iraqi military convoys
stopped travelling at night. Opposition groups such as the Iraqi National
are working in exile to unseat Saddam. However, they believe that the
will need a firm sign of American military support before risking a general

  [end of article]

  if anyone can get today's sunday times, it has some interesting photos
showing armed soldiers around imam husein's shrine.


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