Reuters reports that the Islamic Party of Iraq says the attack was carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq, a self-proclaimed Al Qaeda affiliate, and that the target was Mr. Fahdawi. He was the seventh member of the Sunni-based party to be murdered in the past month.
"Al Qaeda has been distributing a lot of leaflets which say that there is no repentance for IIP members anymore, and killing them is allowed everywhere," party leader Rasheed al-Azawi told Reuters.
The attack is a reminder that as US troop levels continue to dwindle (the US mandate expires at the end of this year), Iraq remains an inordinately violent place. Events at the mosque since the 2003 help illustrate the challenges Iraq continues to confront.
After the attack, Samarrai blamed Al Qaeda for the deaths, but also called for religious tolerance. "Do not describe [the attackers] as Shiite or Sunni or Iraqis," AFP quoted him as saying at the mosque during funeral services for many of the dead today. "They are terrorists and terrorists have no religion."
Perhaps. But the attack highlights the fact that there are still many in the country willing to kill and die in service of the Sunni takfiri ideology of Al Qaeda. The practice of takfir, declaring opponents to be infidels and apostates and therefore fair game for murder, is embraced by the group's fellow travelers in Iraq and elsewhere. To them, Iraq's Shiites are marked for death simply because of their beliefs, as are fellow Sunnis who reject their vision.