“There are ongoing efforts to revive sectarian tensions on the background of the events taking place in the region”, the statement said, referring to the escalation of Shiite-Sunni tension after the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia. It didn’t confirm reports that at least one person was killed.
Iraqi officials seem eager to dismiss the idea of Shi’ite attackers, however, with Prime Minister Hayder Abadi saying the gunmen are “ISIS and those who are similar to them“, and other officials suggested it was a false flag to fuel sectarian unrest. The government in Riyadh cut ties on Sunday with Tehran after protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic representations in Iran. “After we heard the explosion, we went to its source and found that IEDs (improvised explosive devices) had been planted in the mosque”, he said.
A medical source in Hilla said three people were wounded in the explosions. Pushing back IS in this region after the jihadists took over large parts of the country in 2014 was one of the priorities of the government and allied Shiite militias.
That was achieved in a few months and IS has been largely eradicated from the area but violence – not just of a sectarian nature but also crime-driven – has remained frequent.
Angry protesters, who had gathered outside the Saudi embassy in Iraq to express their grief over the execution of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi authorities, crossed security barriers and entered the embassy compound, IRNA reported.
“We have told the operations leaders in Babil to track down the criminal gangs from groups like Daesh and the like, which use [the attacks on] the mosques to stir up sedition and undermine national unity”, al-Abadi wrote.
The crowd at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad demanded the government boycott Saudi commercial goods in response to Saudi Arabia’s latest executions.
An early gathering of demonstrators in the capital tried to pass through barbed wire into the fortified Green Zone where the Saudi embassy is located but police repelled them, a Reuters cameraman said.