A Crucial Arrest

No single event damaged the young democracy of Iraq more than the Feb. 22nd bombing of the Golden Dome at in Samarra. The 1,200-year-old Askari Shrine, scene of the atrocity, is the second-holiest site in Shi’ite Islam. 

The significance of the crime was not that it improved the position of the insurgency.  The public, Sunni and Shi’ite, despised the act. 

Rather, the inability of the government to protect this beloved symbol of the majority population lessened its credibility even among those who wished it well.  The immediate consequences were a rash of sectarian revenge killings in the Baghdad area, and an expansion of the influence of non-governmental militias.

It was not until June that the government regained its credibility.  The events that reversed its fortunes included the take-down of al-Zarqawi, the decimation of al Qaeda in Iraq, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s National Reconciliation proposal.

But among Shi’ites nationwide, the arrest of the terrorist who was the operational commander of the February 22nd shrine bombing held particular significance.  Yousri Fakher Mohammed Ali, known as Abu Qudama, was captured in Udaim after a shootout in which 15 “foreign fighters” were killed, according to Iraq’s national security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie. 

Abu Qudama was an al Qaeda operative from Tunasia.  He is accused of multiple bombings and killings, including the assassination of Al-Arabia TV correspondent Atwear Bahjat, who covered the explosion at the Golden Dome.

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The master-mind of the attack, Mohammed al-Badri, remains at large.  But by bringing to justice the perpetrator of an event which rocked Iraq, the government has increased its credibility, and lowered that of the private militias that sought to supplant it.

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