- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

MOSUL, Iraq — Religious leaders called for calm yesterday amid fears of revenge attacks a day after a suicide bomber killed 50 Iraqis and wounded more than 80 in a packed Shi’ite funeral tent in Mosul.

Grieving families canceled a planned public funeral procession for the victims in the northern city after a mortar shell early yesterday slammed into the site of the carnage.

Sunni Muslim leaders, fearful of reprisals, call for calm in the city, Iraq’s third largest and one of its most ethnically and religiously diverse.

“It was a terrorist attack meant to spark civil war, but I think the Sunnis and Shi’ites will not succumb,” said Nureddine Hayali, a spokesman for the Islamic Party.

Iraq’s Shi’ite clerics also urged calm. The office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shi’ites, said he was calling for “unity and solidarity among all Iraqis despite the attacks targeting the innocent.”

The bomber struck Thursday as mourners gathered next to the Sadreen mosque, where a service was being held for Hisham al-Araji, the Mosul representative for radical Shi’ite leader Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr.

Doctors put the dead at 47 and the wounded at 81. The U.S. Army raised the death toll to “at least 50” in an announcement in Baghdad, the Associated Press reported.

Sunni Arabs, perceived as the elite under Saddam Hussein’s regime, make up about half of Mosul’s 1.5 million population, while the rest are divided among Kurds, Turkomen, Shi’ites, Christians and other groups.

The city has been gripped by violence since November when rebels launched an offensive and police abandoned their posts.

The latest blow for Iraq’s majority Shi’ites came as their political alliance, which swept the elections, was putting the final touches on a deal with the Kurds to form a coalition ahead of the new parliament’s first session Wednesday.

Both sides were in accord that Shi’ite Ibrahim al-Jaafari would be prime minister and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani would be president.

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