Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blair Shocked by Iraq Bomb Horror

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blair Shocked by Iraq Bomb Horror

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jon Smith

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Iraq was facing a "struggle between good and evil" in the aftermath of the country's bloodiest day since the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

At least 140 people were killed when explosions blasted pilgrims gathering at shrines for the Shiite festival of Ashoura - highlighting tensions between them and the Sunni minority, who for so long held sway under Saddam.

A series of suicide bomb and mortar attacks wreaked havoc among those taking part in Shia Muslim religious festivals in the cities of Karbala and Baghdad.

Mr Blair said by targeting worshippers in such a "cruel and evil" way, the attackers were seeking to cause "the maximum amount of division and hatred" in Iraq.

He said: "If there was any clearer struggle between good and evil, it is between those on the one hand who want to build Iraq as a decent country, in which people from whatever religious quarter live together in freedom and in peace and on the other, those who would destroy that and replace that by religious hatred."

Mr Blair added that the purpose of the outrages was "to try and set the different religious communities in Iraq against each other, to destroy the progress in Iraq, and cause the maximum amount of dissent, division and hatred, when the vast majority of people in Iraq want to build an Iraq that is stable, free, prosperous and democratic for the future".

A full blown conflict between the two traditions of Islam would be the coalition forces' worst nightmare, dwarfing sporadic attacks by so-called pro-Saddam insurgents on US-led troops.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "It is no coincidence that these events have occurred both on the days of celebration and devotion by the Shiite community, and also just a day after there was the very good news from Iraq of the agreement for what amounts to an interim constitution. …

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