Baghdad Archbishop Says Fears Rising After Mosque Attack

BAGHDAD, Iraq, SEPT. 1, 2003 ( Friday’s attack in the Iraqi city of Najaf raises «fears of an even more violent future,» warns Latin-rite Archbishop Benjamin Sleiman of Baghdad.

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The incident shows the «political and security» void that exists, the archbishop told the Misna missionary agency the day after the massacre.

Two car bombs exploded in front of the Imam Ali mosque, one of the Shiites’ most venerated places. Among the 125 people killed was Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. For the past 23 years, he had led the opposition to Saddam Hussein’s regime from his exile in Iran. He returned to his country in May.

On Sunday, the highest religious authority of Shiite Islam in Iraq issued a statement warning about «terrible consequences» if the real religious motives behind the attack are discovered, the Ansa agency reported.

That same day, the council of the Iraqi transitional government requested the British military authorities to close the border with Iran, for fear that Shiite faithful would enter the country to avenge the death of their leader, and thus trigger a civil war.

After a «slaughter of this kind» the people «live in anguish and fear for their lives,» said Archbishop Sleiman. Tension «remains high, given that violence could strike anyone anytime.»

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