Today in Terrorism: November 18, 2005 – Al Hamra Hotel bombing

Of all the people Islamist terrorists hate, they have a particular obsession with Shia Muslims.

I find it curious that when we in the West think of terrorism we focus on the occasions on which the perpetrators, and more crucially the victims, are people ‘like us’. We are fascinated with how ‘one of us’ can mutate into a violent extremist and kill or maim as many fellow citizens as possible. We also devote a lot of attention to acts in which ‘foreign terrorists’ target those we consider Westerners.

As a result, we have a skewed view of the true impact of terrorism around the world. We endlessly see clips of white journalists beheaded or theatre goers in Paris massacred or pedestrians in London mowed down and this may lead us to believe that we, i.e. Westerners, constitute the majority of terrorist victims. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In other words, it is more usual for Muslims to kill other Muslims than non-Muslims.

In fact, over 90% of terrorist targets, at least in the case of Islamist extremism – i.e. jihadis – are other Muslims. This stands to reason as the vast majority of the attacks occur in lands that are predominantly Muslim in nature: Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, (northern) Nigeria. In other words, it is more usual for Muslims to kill other Muslims than non-Muslims.

And there is another fact that eludes those who do not take a close look at Islamist extremism. That is that jihadis have a real hate for Shia Muslims and go out of their way to kill them. The reasons for this go back 1400 years and a fuller discussion is well beyond the scope of a blog post (have a look at my third book for more on this).

Suffice to say that these terrorists consider Shias as ‘non-Muslims’ and hence consider them viable and justified targets for killing.

An injured man stands in front a building destroyed by of two suicide car bombs targeting a hotel used by foreigners in Baghdad. Photograph: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters
A man stands in front a building destroyed by of two suicide car bombs targeting a hotel used by foreigners in Baghdad (Photograph: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)

2005 suicide attacks in Khanaqin

On this day in 2005, a series of suicide attacks in Khanaqin, located northeast of the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, killed at least 60 people. The venues targeted included a hotel used by foreign journalists in Baghdad as well as two Shia mosques.

Two suicide bombers wearing explosive belts walked into the Greater and the Smaller Khanaqin mosques and blew themselves up,” Diyala provincial council leader Ibrahim Hasan al-Bajalan told the AFP news agency. The victims were Muslims at prayer.

Two suicide bombers wearing explosive belts walked into the Greater and the Smaller Khanaqin mosques and blew themselves up

Diyala provincial council leader Ibrahim Hasan al-Bajalan

Iraq is a majority Shia country, one of only three in the world (Iran and Bahrain are the other two). Under former dictator Saddam Hussein the community was left more or less alone. That has changed, especially since the rise (and fall) of Islamic State (ISIS). More Shia will die. Furthermore, the vast, vast number of Islamist extremist groups are Sunni (i.e. reflective of 90% of the world’s Muslims), not Shia, again perhaps contrary to collected wisdom.

It is vital that we recogonise that terrorists have killed and will kill those closest to them in faith. Ignoring this fact muddies the waters in our perception of terrorism, and more importantly, ignores who the true victims really are.

Phil Gurski

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