Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al Samarrai.
A suicide bomber killed 28 people in an attack today at a mosque in Baghdad that also serves as the headquarters of the Sunni Endowment. A Sunni politician was among those killed, and a cleric who has been vocal in his criticism of his opposition to al Qaeda and its puppet Islamic State of Iraq was wounded.
The suicide bomber hid his bomb in a fake splint and entered the Umm al Quraa mosque in western Baghdad during the evening prayers that mark the final days of Ramadan. The bomber attempted to get as close as possible to Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al Samarrai, the head of the influential Sunni Endowment, Iraqi police told McClatchy Newspapers.
The blast killed Khalid al Fahdawi, an Iraqi politician, and 27 other people, including children. Scores more were wounded in the attack, including Samarrai.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, al Qaeda in Iraq’s Islamic State of Iraq is thought to have executed it. The terror group uses suicide attacks to target civilians and has carried out attacks in mosques in the past, including the leveling of the al Askaria mosque in the city of Samarra, one of the most influential mosques in all of Shia Islam.
Ten days ago, the Islamic State of Iraq promised to carry out 100 terror attacks by the end of Ramadan to avenge the deaths of top al Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq leaders.
“We announce the start of the third phase of the blessed ‘Plan of the Good Harvest,'” according to a statement from the Islamic State of Iraq, which was released on Aug. 19 and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
“We will begin this phase with an invasion that we called the invasion of ‘retaliation for Sheikh Osama bin Laden and the senior commanders, Abu Omar [al Baghdadi, the former leader of the ISI], Abu Hamza [al Muhajir, the war minister of the ISI and head of al Qaeda in Iraq], and Abu Ibrahim, the governor of Anbar,’ and it will start, with permission from Allah, in the middle of the month of fasting, and end … after exactly one-hundred raids,” the statement continued. “It will be diversified … between storming and martyrdom-seeking operations, in addition to devices, silencers, and snipers, in all the cities, villages and provinces.”
Samarrai is a prime target for al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq. In November 2007, he supported the closure of the the Umm al Quraa mosque, which at the time was the headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni group that had supported al Qaeda and the Islamic Army of Iraq [see LWJ report, Sunni clerics turn on Association of Muslim Scholars]. He accused the Association of Muslim Scholars of sowing divisions amongst Iraqis and remaining silent while al Qaeda killed Sunnis and Shia alike. He had pointed criticism for al Qaeda in Iraq as well.
“Al Qaeda announced that it kills the Sunni people who participate in the political process, and [kills] the Shi’a on the basis of their identity,” Sammarai said. “We want the world to understand that we refuse al Qaeda’s death sentence on the Iraqi people.”