Pope Thanks Iraqis For Visit, Saying They Deserve Peace

Pope Francis gestures aboard the aeroplane heading to Iraq on March 5, 2021. Pope Francis landed in war-battered Iraq on the first-ever papal visit, defying security fears and the pandemic to comfort one of the world’s oldest and most persecuted Christian communities. Andrew Medichini / POOL / AFP

 

Pope Francis thanked the people of Iraq on Wednesday for allowing him to make his historic trip to the country, saying Iraqis deserve to live in peace.

In his weekly audience, the 84-year-old pope reflected on the packed three-day programme that saw him travel throughout Iraq last weekend, offering encouragement to persecuted Christians and extending a hand to Shiite Muslims.

“After this visit, my soul is filled with gratitude — gratitude to God and to all those who made it possible,” he said, citing political and religious leaders.

These include top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, “with whom I had an unforgettable meeting”.

He said he heard first-hand of “wounds still open” from the destruction wrought on Iraq’s Christian communities, which have been decimated after decades of conflict.

“And at the same time, I saw around me the joy of welcoming Christ’s message,” he said.

“The Iraqi people have the right to live in peace. They have the right to rediscover the dignity that belongs to them.”

He condemned the “monster” of war, adding: “I ask myself, who sells arms to terrorists? Today, who sells them to terrorists?

“They are waging wars in other places as well, in Africa, and it’s a question that I want an answer to.”

But he noted that Iraqis “are trying hard to rebuild. The Muslims are inviting the Christians to return and together they are restoring churches and mosques. Fraternity is there”.

Court Grants Bail To Seven Shiites In Abuja

Shiites, Abuja, CourtA Magistrate Court in Karu has granted bail to seven members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, who are popularly known as Shiites.

The court on Friday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, granted them bail of 100,000 Naira each on the three-count charge against each of them.

The defendants have been charged for the offences of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly and inciting public peace, contrary to sections 97, 102 and 114 of the Penal Code.

Magistrate Abubakar Umaru granted the defendants bail with two reliable and reasonable sureties each in like sum.

He stated that the sureties must be civil or public servants in grade level eight and above.

The Magistrate further ruled that the sureties must live within the jurisdiction of the court and ordered that their addresses be verified by the officer of the court.

He asked the sureties to submit their passport photographs and national identity cards to the court.

Latest Protest Disrupted

Before their bail was granted, Shiites have continued to stage countless protests to demand the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

However, the latest protest was disrupted by police officials on Thursday in the Federal Capital Territory.

The Commissioner of Police in Abuja, Alkali Usman, had defended the action, saying it was to prevent a breakdown of law and order in the Federal Capital Territory.

Mr Zakzaky has been in detention since December 2015, after a bloody clash between the Shiites and the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State.

Shiites/Army Clash: Group Says Commission’s Indictment Is Biased

ShiiteMembers of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria have described their indictment by the Judicial Commission of Enquiry into the December 12, 2015 clash between them and the Nigerian Army as biased and full of distortions.

Reacting to the report that was released by the Kaduna State government, spokesman for the Shiites, Ibrahim Musa, wondered why the commission indicted the group as being responsible for the bloody clash in Zaria, whereas their leader, Shiekh Ibrahim El Zakzaky was never given the opportunity to appear before the commission and defend himself.

Mr Musa said that the failure of the commission to invite El Zakzaky to state his own side of the story during the sittings, or visit him in Abuja where he is being detained for the past seven months, clearly showed that the panel was not fair to the movement from the beginning.

He also criticised part of the report that recommended the trial of their members involved in the killing of a soldier, as well as the recommendation that their lands in some part of Zaria which were acquired illegally should be revoked by the Kaduna State government.

The Shiites’ spokesman further demanded for the immediate and unconditional release of their leader from detention.

He maintained that the commission’s report would not stop the movement from pursuing its litigation against the Army and Federal Government until justice was done to them.

El-Rufai Sues For Peace In Zaria After Shiites, Soldiers’ Clash

zariaThe Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai has appealed for calm and peace following the clash between soldiers and an Islamic group in Zaria.

The clash between soldiers and members of the Shiite Muslim group left at least three persons dead on Saturday, December 12.

The Governor, in a statement he issued through his spokesman, Samuel Aruwan, said that he had spoken on phone with the leader of the Islamic group, Sheik Ibraheem Zakzaky and later met with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Butatai at the Nigerian Army Depot in Zaria over the unfortunate incident.

The Governor gave the assurance that the situation had been brought under control, while security has been beefed up in Zaria to forestall a further break down of law and order.

The Nigerian Army claimed that the Shiite sect’s attack on the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Tukur Buratai, led to the clash, as they considered it an attempt to assassinate the Army Chief.

Spokesman of the group, Ibrahim Usman, debunked the claim that the group attempted to attack the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, stating that the clash was only between his group and some overzealous soldiers who were on their way to the passing out parade of the Nigerian Army in Zaria.

He said that the incident occurred around the PZ area in city when a convoy of armed soldiers opened fire on the group while they were hoisting their sect’s flag to usher in the month of Rabi’ul Awal at Husdainiyyah Baqiyyatullah area of the city.

Army Claims Shiites Attacked Chief Of Army Staff’s Convoy

ArmyThe Nigerian Army has claimed that the Shiite sect’s attack on the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Tukur Buratai, led to the clash between soldiers and members of the group which left at least three dead.

The Acting Director Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, in a statement made available to the media referred to the alleged act by the Shiites as an attempt to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff but which he escaped unhurt.

He said, “The Shiite Sect on the orders of their leader, Ibrahim Alzak-zaky today afternoon in Zaria attacked the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff while on his way to pay homage on the Emir of Zazzau and attend the Passing Out Parade of 73 Regular Recruits Intake of Depot Nigerian Army, Zaria.

“The sect, numbering hundreds carrying dangerous weapons, barricaded the roads with bonfires, heavy stones and tyres. They refused all entreaties to disperse and then started firing and pelting the convoy with dangerous objects.

“The barricade was obviously a deliberate attempt to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff and members of his entourage while on a legitimate official assignment as Special Guest of Honour at the passing out parade which has earlier been widely publicized.

“The troops responsible for the safety and security of the Chief of Army Staff on hearing explosion and firing were left with no choice than to defend him and the convoy at all cost as well as open up the barricaded road for law abiding citizens.

“This is in line with the Nigerian Army Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct. This kind of behaviour will not be tolerated from any individual or groups and should not be allowed to repeat itself.”

Colonel Usman implored all Nigerians to continue to be law abiding and remain conscious of other people’s right to life, freedom of movement and passage.

Shiites Clash With Soldiers in Zaria, At Least 3 Dead

zariaAt least three people are feared dead with others injured following a bloody clash between some armed soldiers and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in Zaria, Kaduna State.

Spokesman of the group, Ibrahim Usman, told our correspondent that the incident occurred around the PZ area in city when a convoy of armed soldiers opened fire on the group while they were hoisting their Sect’s flag to usher in the month of Rabi’ul Awal at Husdainiyyah Baqiyyatullah area of the city.

Ibrahim also debunked reports that the group attempted to attack the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, stating that the clash was only between his group and some overzealous soldiers who were on their way to the passing out parade of the Nigerian Army in Zaria.

An eyewitness also told our correspondent “As early as 12 ‘0 clock the members of the Shiite barricaded the road where the COAS will pass.

“The security details attached to the Chief of Army staff came down from the vehicle to plead with the congregation. From the distance, we could hear gun shots.”

It was gathered that the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff succeeded in clearing the way for him to pass and according to the eyewitness, immediately the COAS left, some soldiers in three trucks arrived the scene.

Attempt To Assassinate

The Acting Director Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, in a statement made available to the media claimed that the Shiite sect attacked the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Major-General Tukur Buratai.

“The Shiite Sect on the orders of their leader, Ibrahim Alzak-zaky today afternoon in Zaria attacked the convoy of the Chief of Army Staff while on his way to pay homage on the Emir of Zazzau and attend the Passing Out Parade of 73 Regular Recruits Intake of Depot Nigerian Army, Zaria.

“The sect, numbering hundreds carrying dangerous weapons, barricaded the roads with bonfires, heavy stones and tyres. They refused all entreaties to disperse and then started firing and pelting the convoy with dangerous objects,” the statement read.

The Army said that it considered this a deliberate attempt to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff and members of his entourage and was left with no option than to “defend him and the convoy at all cost as well as open up the barricaded road for law abiding citizens” as this was in line with the Nigerian Army Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct.

On June 24, 2014, three sons of the leader of the Shitte sect, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky were killed following a bloody clash between his members and soldiers in the same city.

Bombs kill 50, wound 144 across Iraq

A string of bomb attacks across Iraq killed at least 50 people on Monday and wounded 144 more, police and hospital sources said.

Violence in Iraq has eased since the height of sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007, but insurgents still carry out deadly attacks, especially around the capital, and deadly car bombs on Sunday shattered a lull in violence in the lead-up to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started on Saturday.

In Taji, 20 km (12 miles) north of Baghdad, six blasts, including a car bomb, exploded near a housing complex on Monday, killing 14 people and wounding 29, sources said. When police arrived at the scene, another blast killed 10 police officers.

Two car bombs struck near a government building in Sadr City, a poor Shi’ite neighbourhood in Baghdad, and in the northern mainly Shi’ite area of Hussainiya, killing in total 16 people and wounding 73, police said.

In the northern oil city of Kirkuk, four car bombs killed four people and wounded 15 others. Explosions and gun attacks on security checkpoints in different parts of the restive eastern province of Diyala killed six people, including four soldiers and policemen, and wounded 30, police sources said.

Tensions have been high since the last U.S. troops left in December, with ongoing political crises between Iraq’s main Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions.

On Sunday, car bombs in two towns south of Baghdad and in the Iraqi city of Najaf killed at least 20 people and wounded 80.

Last month at least 237 people were killed and 603 wounded in attacks, making it one of the bloodiest months since U.S. troops withdrew.

Bomb kills 3, wounds 14 in Baghdad

A bomb in a bus killed three people and wounded 14 in Baghdad, hospital and police sources said on Tuesday, the latest attack to raise fears of a return to sectarian violence in Iraq.

The explosion occurred in Sadr City, a Shi’ite district in northeastern Baghdad, the sources said.

Although violence in Iraq has eased since its peak in 2006-2007, last month at least 237 people were killed and 603 wounded in attacks, making it one of the bloodiest months since U.S. troops withdrew at the end of last year.

Sunni insurgents often attack Shi’ite targets to try to reignite sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands.

Iraq market blasts: 14 die,100 injure

Authorities in Iraq say 14 people are dead and more than 100 wounded in a double bombing at a busy market in a Shiite neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad.

A police official says the two bombs tore through the market Friday at midmorning while people were shopping before the heat of the day. He says 14 people were killed and 106 were wounded. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

At least 125 Iraqis have been killed over the last two weeks in bombings and shootings that have mostly targeted Shiite Muslims and government security forces. It has been one of the deadliest periods since the last American troops withdrew six months ago.

The attack was the latest in a wave of bombings this month that have targeted mainly Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims and religious sites and have revived concerns of widespread sectarian violence.

 

 

Iraq bomb attack kills 53 targeted pilgrims

Bombings and shootings targeting Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims in Baghdad and police across Iraq killed at least 53 people on Wednesday in coordinated attacks during a major religious festival.

In the attacks, at least 18 people were killed when four bombs hit pilgrims across Baghdad as they gathered to mark the anniversary of the death of Shi’ite imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of Prophet Mohammad.

 

One of those blasts killed at least nine people as pilgrims passed through a police checkpoint in central Baghdad.

“A group of pilgrims were walking and passed by a tent offering food and drinks when suddenly a car exploded near them,” said Wathiq Muhana, a policeman whose patrol was stationed near the blast in Karrada district.

“People were running away covered with blood and bodies were scattered on the ground,” he said.

Extra security and checkpoints have been in place this week as thousands of pilgrims arrive in Baghdad to meet at a shrine in the capital’s northern Kadhimiyah district for the Shi’ite religious festival.

Violence in Iraq has eased since the height of the war, but Islamist insurgents tied to al Qaeda are still potent, often targeting Shi’ite pilgrims to try to reignite the sectarian tensions that drove Iraq close to civil war in 2006-2007..