BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Iraq’s most influential Shiite political leader called Friday for Sunni-Shiite unity and condemned the killing of Iraqis in a bid to help pull the nation from the brink of civil war after the wave of Shiite outrage triggered by the bombing of a Shiite shrine two days go.
In a statement, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said those who carried out the Wednesday bombing at the Askariya shrine in Samarra “no not represent the Sunnis in Iraq.”
Al-Hakim instead blamed Saddam Hussein loyalists and followers of al-Qaeda in Iraq boss Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, saying “we all have to unite in order to eliminate them.” “It is regrettable that things reached the degree that Sunni and Shiites are paying for the crimes committed by the enemy of Islam and Iraqis,” al-Hakim said. “This is what al-Zarqawi is working for, that is, to ignite a sectarian strife in the country.” “We call for self-restraint and not to be dragged by the plots of the enemy of Iraq,” he said.
Al-Hakim issued his statement as U.S. officials urged Iraqi leaders to use their influence to calm the situation after a wave of reprisal attacks against Sunnis left about 130 dead since Wednesday.
Sunni Arab politicians pulled out of talks with Shiite religious parties on forming a new government to express their outrage over attacks against Sunnis.
“It was the right of Shiites in Iraq to express their anger through peaceful means and to call for putting an end to such flagrant attacks against the conscience of the nation and its holy places,” al-Hakim said in a statement sent to The Associated Press by email.
Shiite officials said they expected the statement to be disseminated by Shiite-owned media. “The angry reaction lead to attacks on mosques of our Sunni brothers in different parts of Baghdad and lead to the death of dozens of them and there were also attacks against Shiites in other areas,” al-Hakim said.
“We declare our rejection to any attack against a Sunni or a Shiite mosque in Iraq and we also condemn killing Iraqis.”
Wednesday’s attack was the most damaging to a Shiite shrine in Iraq since the collapse of Saddam’s regime in April 2003. Three attacks in 2003 and 2004 outside Shiite holy shrines in Baghdad and the southern holy cities of Karbala and Najaf left hundreds of people dead or wounded.