Twin Bombings Kill at Least 56 in Northern Iraq
Suicide Attacks Strike Both U.S.-Backed Kurdish Political Parties in Irbil
Two suicide bombers with explosives wired to their bodies struck the offices of the country's two main Kurdish parties in nearly simultaneous attacks Sunday, killing at least 56 people and wounding more than 235 in the deadliest assault in Iraq in six months. The attacks struck in the Kurdish heartland and took a heavy toll among senior leaders of Iraq's most pro-American ethnic group.Paul Bremer says there's no proof at this point who is responsible. It could be Ansar al-Islam...or could be al-Qaeda. It could be any of a number of foreign terrorist groups operating in Iraq. Why? Because Bush's war has proven to be a terror-growing war rather than a terror-abater...and no matter who was behind these blasts, tensions will now likely heighten between the Kurds and Sunni Arabs.
Although Iraq has suffered numerous suicide bombings in recent months, the attack Sunday marked the first time perpetrators have worn explosives rather than using vehicles.
244 Muslim Pilgrims Die in Hajj Stampede
The devil-stoning is the most animated ritual of the annual pilgrimage and often the most dangerous. Many pilgrims frantically throw rocks, shout insults or hurl their shoes at the pillars - acts that are supposed to demonstrate their deep disdain for the devil. But clerics frown upon such action, saying it's un-Islamic.Sistani: Iraq Cleric's Sense of History
Last year, 14 pilgrims were trampled to death during the ritual and 35 died in a 2001 stampede. In 1998, 180 pilgrims died.
The annual hajj, which began Thursday, climaxed Saturday as some 2 million Muslim pilgrims listened to Saudi Arabia's top cleric denounce terrorists, calling them an affront to Islam. However, he defended the kingdom's strict interpretation of the faith.
Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheik said in his sermon there were those who claim to be holy warriors, but were shedding Muslim blood and destabilizing the nation.
"Is it holy war to shed Muslim blood? Is it holy war to shed the blood of non-Muslims given sanctuary in Muslim lands? Is it holy war to destroy the possession of Muslims?" he said, adding that their actions gave enemies an excuse to criticize Muslim nations. A large number of the victims of suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq and elsewhere have been Muslims.
Al-Sheik, who is widely respected in the Arab world as the foremost cleric in the country considered the birthplace of Islam, spoke at Namira Mosque in a televised sermon watched by millions of Muslims in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Al-Sheik also criticized the international community, accusing it of attacking Wahhabism, the strict interpretation of Islam that is applied in Saudi Arabia: "This country is based on this religion and will remain steadfast on it."
Sistani's political activism has surprised many, even his supporters. In April, he issued statements insisting that the clergy play no direct role in politics. But he soon began weighing in with opinions that drove to the heart of Iraq's future.
Sistani's spokesmen have said he draws lessons for today from the six-month revolt in 1920 against the British occupation. Once it was put down, the Shiite clergy remained in opposition, rejecting participation in elections that followed and discouraging followers from entering the government and its institutions, which soon were dominated by minority Sunnis. That year "is like a complex in the hearts and minds of the Shiites," said Mohieddin Khatib, the secretary of the Governing Council. "It is a very deep regret, and he is saying you will not hear something like this from me."