To: F14 Pilot
Iran blames al-Qaida for explosions
Official says terror group sees U.S., Shiites as its enemies
By Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran -- An Iranian vice president blamed al-Qaida for Tuesday's attacks on Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Pakistan, condemning the terrorist group's rigid thinking for the bombings and shootings that killed more than 20 Iranian worshippers and wounded 69.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, Iran's vice president for legal and parliamentary affairs, wrote in a message posted on his personal Web site that al-Qaida considers Shiites more dangerous than their political enemy -- the United States.
"The reactionary al-Qaida terror group reached a conclusion ... that they have two enemies: the United States as the political enemy and Shiites as the ideological enemy," Abtahi wrote.
Al-Qaida, led by Osama bin Laden, is a predominantly Sunni militant group, and draws its members from some of the most conservative streams of Sunni thought -- segments of Muslim society that consider Shiites heretics.
"Blasts in Karbala and Kazimiya (a shrine in Baghdad) today ... are the direct result of this reactionary religious thinking," Abtahi wrote.
A total of 185 people were killed in Tuesday's bombings in Baghdad and Karbala, Iraq, and Quetta, Pakistan.
President Mohammad Khatami said the explosions were the work of "devils who oppose stability, security and national sovereignty in Iraq," state-run television reported Tuesday.
Khatami also criticized the United States' occupation of Iraq. **It has become clear today that occupation of Iraq not only has not brought stability and security to this country but has increasingly taken away peace from the Iraqi nation and caused many damages to them,** state television quoted Khatami as saying.
Abtahi's comments about al-Qaida are noteworthy because the United States has accused Iran of harboring al-Qaida fugitives, The United States believes those fugitives include>including bin Laden's eldest son, Saad.
President Bush also included Iraq in his "axis of evil" with North Korea and prewar Iraq.
Iran still wields tremendous influence in the region and many Gulf countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, worry that the now-emboldened Iraqi Shiites -- a long-repressed majority in Iraq -- will strike up close ties with Iran and become more powerful.
In Iraq, at least 143 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded in Tuesday's nearly simultaneous bombings in Baghdad and Karbala, which came during the Shiite festival of Ashoura. They coincided with a shooting attack on Shiite worshippers in Quetta, Pakistan, that killed at least 42 people and wounded more than 150.
At least 22 Iranian pilgrims were killed and 69 others injured in the Karbala explosions, Iranian Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said.
But state television quoted hospital sources in Karbala as saying more than 75 percent of the dead and more than 90 percent of the injured were Iranians.
Khanjani said some victims in the Kazimiya explosions in Baghdad were Iranian but had no figures.
Deputy Interior Minister Ali Asghar Ahmadi said dozens of Iranian ambulances were at the border to transport any victims to Iranian hospitals, and Iran was trying to send a plane to Baghdad to pick up casualties, state television reported.
Iran's state media have reported that more than 100,000 Iranian pilgrims went to Iraq to mark the feast.
The death of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, and his 72 companions in 680 on the plains of Karbala is marked every year with mourning ceremonies in Iran and Shiite communities across the world. http://www.trivalleyherald.com/Stories/0,1413,86~10669~1993331,00.html
posted on 03/03/2004 5:42:14 AM PST
15 detained over Iraq attacks
Staff and agencies
Wednesday March 3, 2004
Iraqi police and US troops detained 15 people in connection with yesterday's devastating suicide attacks against Shia pilgrims in Baghdad and Kerbala, a coalition official said today.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that 15 people were detained in Kerbala after the blasts, nine of them in Iraqi custody. The others, being held by coalition forces, included four Farsi speakers thought to be Iranians.
The development came as the Iraqi governing council declared a three-day mourning period and huge crowds gathered in Kerbala for the first funerals of victims.
An estimated 100,000 Iranians travelled to Iraq for the Ashura celebrations that were targeted in yesterday's bombings, and many are thought to have been among the dead and injured.
It also emerged today that further attacks may have been planned as part of yesterday's orchestrated day of bloodshed. Iraqi officials said suspected suicide bombers were arrested in Basra and in Kirkuk, while police found a bomb with 10kg of TNT alongside a road where Shias had planned to march.
Anwar Amin, the Iraqi civil defence corps chief in Kirkuk, said police defused the bomb and the march was cancelled.
Meanwhile, as the clear-up operation continued, authorities gave varying estimates of the death toll.
The American count of the dead was revised down, from 143 to 117, a senior coalition official said today. But Iraq's health ministry said 185 people were killed, and some unofficial Iraqi death totals were as high as 230. Estimates of the wounded ranged from 300 to more than 400.
US officials and Iraqi leaders named a Jordanian militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as a "prime suspect" for the attacks, saying he is seeking to spark a Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq to wreck US plans to hand over power to the Iraqis on June 30.
Iranian vice-president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, blamed al-Qaida for the attacks in Iraq and Pakistan. He wrote in a message posted on his personal website that al-Qaida considers Shias more dangerous than their political enemy - the United States.
"The reactionary al-Qaida terror group reached a conclusion ... that they have two enemies: the United States as the political enemy and Shias as the ideological enemy," Mr Abtahi wrote.
Iraq's US-appointed governing council pleaded with Iraqis to remain united - an attempt to avert reprisals. In a sign of unity, Shia, Sunni and Kurdish council representatives appeared before journalists hours after the attacks urging Iraqis to "maintain unity" to "cheat our enemies of the chance to inflict evil on the nation."
However, the attacks forced the delay of a key event on the road toward the US handover of power to the Iraqis on June 30 - the planned signing tomorrow of an interim constitution agreed by council members this week.
Iraq's US administrator Paul Bremer said the signing would be delayed due to the three-day mourning period.
Also today, it was announced that US soldiers arrested two Iraqis wanted for attacks against coalition forces. Major Bryan Luke, of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, said troops conducted separate raids late yesterday in Tikrit and nearby Uja, both former strongholds of Saddam Hussein and his family. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1160958,00.html
posted on 03/03/2004 5:44:44 AM PST
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