Samarra provincial police force members detained as unconfirmed reports of attacks on mosques, shrines surface
The Iraqi police have made arrests in this morning’s twin bombings of the al-Askaria mosque’s remaining minarets. While early reports indicated the Iraqi National Police were responsible for securing the mosque complex, a provincial police unit was guarding the area. As the suspects behind the attacks were rounded up, unconfirmed reports of attacks on religious sites in Baghdad and Diyala began to surface.
The suspects in the bombing came from the Salahadin Emergency Response Unit, not the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the 1st Iraqi National Police Division (3-3-1 INP), according to Multinational Division North. “I can confirm … that Brig. Gen. Duraid, deputy commander for the National Police in Samarra, did arrest the Emergency Response Unit Iraqi Police commander and 12 of his Iraqi police who had been guarding the mosque at the time of the explosions,” Major Tage J. Rainsford, the spokesman for Major General Benjamin Mixon, told FOX News this evening.
DJ Elliott, the editor and researcher behind The Fourth Rail’s Iraqi Security Forces Order Of Battle, noted the Salahadin Emergency Response Unit [ERU] is essentially the provincial SWAT unit. The ERU is known as the 3rd ERU battalion of the Salahadin Provincial Iraqi Police. The unit designation explains the earlier confusion between the units (3rd ERU verses the 3-3-1 INP). The 3-3-1 was responsible for security of the mosque, but was slated to move to Baghdad this month as part of a newly formed Military Police brigade.
Earlier in the day, reports indicated that there was a conflict between two units, and in one case a skirmish, although the units were not identified. A likely scenario is the Salahadin Emergency Response Unit was assigned to secure the al-Askaria mosque, and al Qaeda infiltrators took advantage of the change in command to destroy the minarets.
In Baghdad, Coalition and Iraqi forces are attempting to mitigate the much anticipated backlash from today’s attack. A curfew of indefinite length has been imposed. Iraqi and Coalition forces have cordoned “all of [the] Sadr city exits that connect the suburb to central Baghdad,” according to the Kuwaiti News Agency. A “Correspondent of Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said he saw US military tanks and bulldozers being stationed, blocking bridges over the waterway that separates Sadr city and central Baghdad.” This is an attempt to keep the Mahdi Army from attacking from its bases in Sadr City.
The Associated Press indicated “sketchy reports of sectarian strife” were starting to surface. Four Sunni mosques and a Shia shrine north of Baghdad. Later, the AP Khudair al-Janabi mosque in Baghdad’s Bayaa district was reported to have been hit with an arson attack, while the Shia Imam Ali Kamal shrine in Khalis in Diyala province, was reported to have been destroyed in a bombing. IraqSlogger said 3 mosques in Baghdad, the Grand Iskandariyah Mosque, Hiteen Mosque and Abdullah Mosque were reported to have been destroyed, and fighting was reported in the mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhood of Ghazaliyah in northern Baghdad.
The early reports of violence and the destruction of mosques should be treated with caution. Reports of mosque bombings in Baghdad last summer were inflated or in some cases fabricated. Al Qaeda, Muqtada al Sadr and other elements looking to incite further violence will manufacture incidents as part of their sophisticated Information Operations. But fallout from the bombing of the al-Askaria mosque should be expected.
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