While international media have reported on the surge of violence which, last Wednesday – June 4th - at dawn, has plagued Samarra, an Iraqi city lying directly north of the capital, Baghdad, in what is known as the Sunni triangle, few have actually spoken of the true nature of the clashes.
Samarra which is a predominantly Sunni city, located in the north province of Salah ad-Din province, about an hour drive away from Baghdad, finds itself once again in the middle of a violent storm as terror militants affiliated to ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – have, since Thursday, attempted to seize control over the city and purge its perimeters of all Shia residents.
Shia Rights Watch and representatives of Imam Shirazi Foundation, which have representatives on the ground have both been monitoring the situation very closely, concerned that both the authorities and the international community have failed to grasp the sheer magnitude of the threat which now hovers over Samarra’ Shia community.
Early on Thursday morning security sources posted near the city recalled how armed militants travelling in a large convoy - over 45 vehicles according to Imam Shirazi’s media office – simultaneously assaulted checkpoints east and west of the city, keen to exploit chaos to break through the defences of the city as to enter its grounds.
To better understand what is happening in Samarra it is key to look at ISIS’ recent movements in the immediate region. Over the past weeks terror radicals have moved against the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, which all fall within the so-called Sunni triangle.
With ISIS in control of several areas already in Ramadi and Falluja, the group is quite clearly attempting to carve a Sunni buffer zone within Iraq, a springboard of sort from which to plan further attacks against the central government.
In Mosul, where clashes have too been reported ISIS militants have targeted peaceful Shia communities.
No longer a simple terror group with limited reach or ambitions, ISIS seeks to establish itself as a sovereign entity, it wants to use Iraq as the cornerstone of its Islamic Caliphate.
Terror in Samarra
If several media have completed blot out ISIS attacks against Samarra Shia community, Shia Rights Watch said to be determined to speak the truth over the atrocities which are being committed on the ground against unarmed civilian populations.
Residents in Samarra who remember only too well 2006 and 2007 violence when radicals targeted Al Askari Mosque, have said to be besides themselves with fear as ISIS has declared war on their community.
Once again terror radicals are running wild across the city, calling on people to join their Jihad against the government, instilling fear throughout. Imam Sharazi’s office has confirmed that over 400 ISIS militants, all heavily armed have entered Samarra, sending waves of incontrollable panic across the city.
As many as 54 people have been killed over night and scores more resident have been injured. Hundreds of residents have already fled the city, hoping to find refuge in nearby cities and villages where ISIS has no reach.
Sources on the ground have confirmed that gun fights near Samarra Shia shrine have been ongoing since June 5th, with residents and soldiers keen to defend the sanctity of the site against terror radicals.
Al Asqari Mosque, also known as the Mosque of the two Imams has utmost importance in Shia Islam as it is believe the remains of both the 10th and 11th Imams are buried under its foundations.
Thousands of Shia Muslims come everywhere year to pay their respect an honour the memories of the two Imams.
“This attack by ISIS militants is one of the most threatening systematic violations to Shia rights,” warned SRW -prominent rights organization based in Washington.
And indeed by targeting Samarra ISIS seeks to carry a blow at the heart of the Shia community, a warning of sorts of the type of targeted violence the group wants to run.
But Samarra is refusing to bow to terror. Already local resident have organized themselves into civilian militia, keen to back the efforts of the armed forces. Nearby villages have flocked to Samarra to offer their arm, many having vowed to protect Al Asqari shrine, whether Sunni or Shia for the sake of national cohesion.
June 14, 2014