Was Iran responsible for the bombing of Samarra's Askariya Mosque?

Thursday, March 02, 2006
Askariya Mosque is a Shia Muslim holy site located in the Iraqi city of Samarra, 60 miles from Baghdad. It is one of the most important Shiite mosques in the world, built in 944. The remains of the tenth and eleventh Shia Imams rest at the shrine.

On February 22, 2006 at approximately 6:55am local time it was bombed destroying its golden dome and severely damaging the mosque. This attack resulted in a wave of sectarian violence, which some claim could turn into a civil war.

Indeed, the New York Times called the attack “a deliberate attempt to make it politically impossible to create a national unity government capable of leading Iraq to democratic stability.”

But who is responsible for the bombing?

No entity has claimed responsibility. This is unusual.

Search the Times, the Washington Post, and other MSM and you won't find any investigative reporting. The question remains unasked and unanswered.

Egypt's weekly Al Ahram had the most detailed reporting I could find:
"[T]he attackers were 10 men dressed in commando outfits and that they had
been apprehended.

The shrine ought to have been protected by a contingent of 35 Interior
Ministry troops, because of its particular importance to the Shia community.
Questions abound. Why was the security detail reduced from 35 to only five men
guarding such an important shrine? If it took at least 12 hours to plant the
explosives, why did no one notice that the five police guards had been taken
hostage? If it took at least 12 hours to plant the explosives, would that not
have meant access to the shrine during evening prayers the night before?

Hoping to find answers and interview residents of Samaraa, Al-Arabiya
news network dispatched three of its journalists, including former Al-Jazeera
reporter Atwar Bahjat, herself a native of the ancient city. Sources in Iraq say
she was interviewing residents when a truck full of unknown armed men abducted
her as she screamed for help. Bahgat, 30, of mixed Sunni-Shia heritage, was
found executed outside Samaraa, along with her cameraman and sound technician.
Her field equipment and video were missing.

Iraqi websites have speculated as to why Bahgat was so brutally
murdered and what became of her video material. According to the Baghdad-based
Iraqi blogger, Zeyad, of Healing Iraq, quoting other Iraqi sources, Bahgat had
been filming the arrest of two Iranians in Samaraa who were released when
Interior Minister Baqer Jabr arrived on the scene."
So, according to the oldest newspaper in the Arab world, a former Al-Jazeera female reporter was killed while filming the arrest of two Iranians and her film has disappeared?

Very puzzling. Who was responsible for this bombing? What about the death of this female reporter? Why doesn't the MSM investigate this question?


terrye said...

Why would they investigate it? It is Bush's fault, end of story.

I myself find it difficult to believe the Shia would have attacked the shrine and the Iranians are Shia.

ambisinistral said...

Hey, cut the reporters some slack. There is only so much information they can gleen from the bartender at the Hotel they're staying in.

RogerA said...

Damn, Brylun--when you signed on here, I didnt think you did investigative reporting--great job, sir.
As to possible motives, more than 20 or 30 abound--and none of them are conducive to external perceptions.
The effects of the bombing? much to the chagrin of the some western observers no civil war has broken out; much to the chagrin of the radicals (whomever), their effort hasnt resulted in a civil war, and may in fact backfire; in short--no results yet.

From the news sources outside the MSM, it looks like Iraqis them selves, while saddened, arent likely to let this religious atrocity tear them apart--and in fact, it may be that the islamacists have failed to understand that Iraq has genuinely become a NON-sectarian society; at least as they are willing to respond to provocations such as this--now that would be a strategic blunder of immense proportions for Islamacists--and I frankly think that they, their supporters and fellow travellers, are too stupid to recognize that possibility--while Saddamn was a nasty SOB, he may have just created a society that understands the implications of tyranny--whether sectarian or non-sectarian

brylun said...

Instapundit has an item on this but so far no mention of the dead reporter.

Peter UK said...

It is hard to see what Iran would gain from this act that would not also have some deleterious repercussions for the Iranian theocracy.
The precedent of bombing Shia places of worship is an open invitation to Iran's Sunni Arab population,amongst whom there is a great deal of discontent.
The shrine was a place of pilgrimage for Iranian Shias,an ideal way of infiltrating the Revolutionary Guard.
It would appear to be an inside job from the length of time it took to plant the demolition charges.
It has all the hallmarks of the crazed desperation which typify the deeds of Zarqawi.

Luther McLeod said...

Does anyone really think that the Iranian Shi'ite are beyond destroying one of their holy places? I would guess that for ninety percent of the leadership of Iran, theocratic and/or "politician", their piety is directly proportional to their lust for power. I have no problem believing that they would sacrifice a mosque (no matter how sacred) to further their personal agendas for power. A free and stable Iraq is their greatest fear. They have and will do anything to prevent that from occurring. We cannot allow ourselves to judge their actions by our morality. That way lies disaster.

Seneca the Younger said...

I've got no idea how to evaluate the question of whether Iran would blow up a Shi'ite mosque or not... but I'll note that the rather arfully placed explosives damaged neither the actual tombs inside, not the minarets surrounding.

If I were going to blow up something, I'd just pile a bunch of explosives inside the building, light the fuse, and run like a rabbit. Doing it so carefully makes me wonder if someone, somewhere, issued a convenient fatwa about which parts were holy and which parts weren't.

Rick Ballard said...

I hear drums.

Luther McLeod said...

Well, I obviously have no background to discuss motive. Just gut feeling.

Thanks for the details SyT. But, twelve hours to set up? Don't know about fatwa's, after all they are done at whim, but it does appear to have been done with great expertise. At the rate Zarqawi has been losing his most qualified, it just sounds like an outside job.

chuck said...

but I'll note that the rather arfully placed explosives damaged neither the actual tombs inside, not the minarets surrounding.

Yeah, I made the same point over at wretchard's. The dome was only completed in 1907, so I expect it can be repaired and restored to its original state.

Luther McLeod said...

Rick, you got me. What the hell does that mean?

Peter UK said...

It isn't a case of morality,but pragmatism,once the bombing of holy places becomes legitimate it is the top of slippery slope,if the Mullahs can be proved have done this,what is to stop someone else vapourising Qom...as a message to stop building nuclear weapons?

Theocratic power is the foundation of the power of the Mullahs,they will be aware that once nothing is sacred,neither are they.

Rick Ballard said...


Sorry, war drums - ever more strongly. Iran folds or we bomb it back to a time before memory. Bush has to more things to deal with prior to retirement - Iran and North Korea - I don't believe that he will entrust either to a potential Dem successor.

He better not.

This is a "Remember the Maine" moment to freeze the Iraqis AFAICT. T'ain't the first time - if nothing big comes from the Indian visit then I may well be full of hot air - again, wouldn't be the first time.

Rick Ballard said...

That would be "two more things"

Seneca the Younger said...

Well, that seems to take the point back to the Salafists, as Iraq the Model (Ali, I think) was suggesting. But why wouldn't they just blow the bejeezus out of the building instead of setting up a careful demolition?

Luther McLeod said...

PeterUK, pragmatism, yes, better. But don't the mullahs count on not being found out? And, didn't H***** think he was sacred until he placed the pistol upon his head? Deluded men can be infinitely delusional.

Thanks Rick, I am slow. I haven't read details yet on the agreement GW signed today. Good or ?. I like "remember the Maine? I like future President's riding up hillsides. Yes, I am a romantic.

SyT, so that the essential components are there, and they can build it back better than ever.

Rick Ballard said...


It depends on how quickly action occurs - March 6 the UNSC will act on sanctions. The 4ID is locked and loaded. The Iraqi army can hold down the home front without us.

It's do or die time for Iran - I vote for die wrt the leadership.

Luther - I don't know what was signed publicly - it's the "are you on board or do you want to hold our coat" that is interesting. It wasn't a casual trip.

Luther McLeod said...

Interesting prognostications Rick. Let's hope. Good insight, "casual trip". How much of an influence did Condi have on this, if any? Thinking of 08 of course :-)

Rick Ballard said...

Yeah, it would be a jolt for Condi, all right.

I look at it like a game of Risk - The Straits of Hormuz need a fair sized expeditionary force in place for protection. India can't afford a blockage of the Straits anymore than China can. A UNSC sanctions program will hit India and China harder than it will the US - we'll get through on our Saudi/Iraqi connections.

Would you trade four paid for divisions in Iran at the Straits for access to Iranian oil? Especially under the aegis of the UN?

It's going to be "Shut up, sit down, or die" for the mad mullahs very soon - and they know it. Pakistan - owner of the only "Islamic bombs" - is going to be watching very carefully. The future for Islamic radicalism just isn't too bright.

Seneca the Younger said...

You know --- I hate to admit it, as often as I've preached the "amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics" sermon --- but I hadn't thought about that point. A big oil hit might mean the Democrats win (or might not), but a really big oil hit might mean China goes back to the warlords. I don't think, somehow, that the PRC government is anxious to see that.

chuck said...

How much of an influence did Condi have on this, if any?

Remember Condi's big trip through the area last year? This century the Pacific will play the role the Mediterranean did in ancient times. How Europe will adjust to living on the periphery of civilization is an interesting guestion.

Peter UK said...

It is a mistake to regard the Mullahs as crazy,you have to bear in mind that they own everything,airlines,oil production,manufacturing,look at them like the Borgia and Medici Popes.
Granted the President with the Gren Ring of Confidence is a 24 caret head the ball,but the Mullahs have too much to lose.
It is not wise to predicate the actions of a group on the actions of a man who believed in Gotterdammerung,that the German people had let him down and deserved destruction.These guys are Middle Eastern Businessmen,they have a nice little earner,they are not going to set the precedent of destroying the symbols of their power.
As for this being kept a secret,not a chance,this is a part of the world where waterboarding is regarded as a recreation,as long as they can keep the perpetrators out of American hands,they will talk.
It wouldn't be a surprise if some are giving themselves up to US troops.

Luther McLeod said...

All good points PeterUK. Perhaps I drew my analogy a tad flippantly. As well, I suppose one man's crazy is another man's pious.

I would still contend though that in their desire to retain power and their "nice little earner" they may be capable of doing most anything. I repeat, a free and stable Iraq must rank near the top of the greatest threats to their power.

After all, even if it were Zarqawi, who controls him? I suppose OBL, or is it the Wahhibi's (sp) from Saudi? Or is it Iran? Does anyone have any idea, really?

Assuming Brylun's facts are correct, it just appears too have been professionally and expertly done. Suggestive, to me, of a larger player.

Peter UK said...

"I would still contend though that in their desire to retain power and their "nice little earner" they may be capable of doing most anything. I repeat, a free and stable Iraq must rank near the top of the greatest threats to their power."

The greatest threat to their power, as all theocracies,is the inviolability of their faith,once that is lost,all else is lost.Once the "king can be killed"
no king is safe.Making one religious target legitimate makes all such targets legitimate,this one was the Shrine of the Twelfth Imam.Let any Mullah try explaining blowing up that to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

If destabilising Iraq was the aim,would it not have been more effective to bomb a mosque of that most volatile of groups the Sunnis?

Luther McLeod said...

"If destabilising Iraq was the aim,would it not have been more effective to bomb a mosque of that most volatile of groups the Sunnis?"

Well, perhaps. But would it not then have been obvious as to the culprits? As well as more difficult to have obtained 12 hours in which to set charges?

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one Peter. I see the mullahs as knowing that they are the last best hope of securing the caliphate. Their placement of Ahmadinejad as president tells me that they wish to push the envelope so to speak. What I mean is; as long as this country and its allies (who seem recently to be growing) are determined and steadfast the mullahs will not succeed in a war of attrition in Iraq or elsewhere. They need bold action now, whether by drawing us into war by threat of their nukes, or by igniting civil war in Irag and forcing us to withdraw. Whatever it may take to light the fire of worldwide jihad. Which is, in the end, their only hope.

Peter UK said...

This was the Shrine of the Twelfth Imam,the one who's coming presages events apocolyptic,the one beloved of Ahmadinejad.This is,as the Bishop of Bath and Wells once said,"Serious Shit".

Luther McLeod said...

OK Peter, one last try :-)

Perhaps and most likely I am over projecting. But it is my opinion that the mullahs ultimate goal is world domination. They no longer (if ever) wish to be just left alone in their theocratic squalor. They desire the entire world to be ummah.

With that as a goal, it would seem to me that if they think they have any chance of achieving that goal, they would consider extraordinary means to obtain it.

After all the mosque was not totally destroyed. It was left in a position to be restored. Personally I don't think they would have that much difficulty explaining such to the Republican Guard, assuming that their tactic was successful, as reason for turning Iraq into anarchy.

I realize I am talking out my arse here Peter, but, bottom line, I just can't put anything beyond them. They are deluded after all.

And besides, if you are going to quote the bishop of Bath, where I once spent several extremely pleasant days, I should just concede anyway. Serious shit indeed. And where the hell is Buddy? Out on another mission I suppose.

Peter UK said...

Luther,the money is going down on Zarqawi as i thought it might.
This would also account for the large number of Jihadis being rolled up at the moment.Only a wahabi is mad enough to destroy the most sacred Shia shine,that of the Twelfth Imam ,the Shia Messiah.

Luther McLeod said...

Peter, you are getting serious on me ;-(

I see nothing in that piece that conclusively puts Zarqawi as the doer of the deed. I will also refer to my question above re: Who controls Zarqawi?
"Only a wahabi" could do such a thing. I don't deny that. I am only confused that you feel there are certain things no man (nor mullah) would do. I think, in history, that is not a proven point.