Shi’ite-Sunni rift laid bare by hanging

Shi’ite-Sunni rift laid bare by hanging

As predicted here by Hugh Fitzgerald.

By Lauren Frayer for AP, with thanks to Jeffrey Imm:

BAGHDAD — As Iraqis awoke yesterday to television images of Saddam Hussein’s neck twisted by a hangman’s noose, Shi’ites cheered, Sunnis vowed revenge and at least 80 persons died from bombings and death squads — not far from the daily average.In Baghdad’s Shi’ite neighborhood of Sadr City, victims of Saddam’s three decades of autocratic rule took to the streets celebrating, dancing, beating drums and hanging Saddam in effigy.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in other Shi’ite neighborhoods across the country.

Outside the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of the capital, loyalists marched with Saddam pictures and waved Iraqi flags.

Defying curfews, hundreds took to the streets vowing revenge in Samarra, north of Baghdad, and gunmen paraded and fired into the air in support of Saddam in Tikrit, his hometown.

“He’s gone, but our problems continue. We brought problems on ourselves after Saddam because we began fighting Shi’ite on Sunni and Sunni on Shi’ite,” said Haider Hamed, 34, a candy store owner in east Baghdad whose uncle was killed in one of Saddam’s many brutal purges….

There was no immediate sign of a feared Sunni uprising in retaliation for Saddam’s execution.

But the London Sunday Telegraph reported that 400 to 500 Shi’ites had been kidnapped in the past two months and messages to relatives said they would be killed if Saddam died.

The responses within Iraq to Saddam’s death echoed the larger reaction across the Middle East, with his enemies rejoicing and his defenders proclaiming him a martyr.

Iranians and Kuwaitis welcomed the death of the leader who led wars against each of their countries.

Some Arab governments denounced the timing of the 69-year-old former president’s hanging just before the start of the most important holiday of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha.

Libya announced a three-day official mourning period and canceled all celebrations for Eid.

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