Baghdad Re-opens ‘Unity Bridge’

sunni-shia-unity-bridge.jpg

Hundreds crossed the Imams Bridge after Muslim leaders and security officials walked from each bank and embraced. The bridge was closed in 2005 following a stampede of Shia pilgrims in which about 1,000 people died.


The carnage was caused by widespread panic after rumours spread that a suicide bomber was about to attack.

For the re-opening ceremony, Iraqi flags flew from the steel pillars of
the bridge and banners were festooned along the railings saying “Yes to
reconciliation and national unity” and “No to sectarianism and
division”.

“This bridge is the symbol of the true spirit and solidarity of the
Iraqi people,” said Sheikh Saleh al-Haidari, a religious leader from
the Shia district of Kadhimiya, on the west bank of the Tigris.

“It is a day of joy for the Iraqi people because we have shown to the world that we are one united people,” he added.

Highest death toll

It is not clear if the bridge, which links Kadhimiya to the
Sunni stronghold of Adhamiya, will be opened to all traffic in the
future, but officials said the opening for pedestrians was a sign of
improving security.

The bridge – called al-Aima in Arabic – links eastern Baghdad’s large
Shia community in places like Sadr City to the important Imam Musa
Kadhim shrine that gives Kadhimiya its name. Before the closure the
bridge would often be packed with pilgrims.

Security was tight for Tuesday’s formal reopening ceremony,
provided by US and Iraqi troops. High screens have shielded people on
the bridge from view since the early days of post-war sectarian
violence.

The 2005 tragedy, triggered by a mortar strike and rumours that
a suicide bomber was among the crowd, was the deadliest incident to hit
Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Security improvements in recent months have also led to the
removal of some high concrete walls put up to separate Shia and Sunni
districts of the capital.

However, Baghdad has been hit by a series of smaller-scale bomb
attacks in recent weeks, often targeting traffic in the morning rush
hour.

Tuesday was no exception, with at least three people killed. On
Monday, nearly 30 people died in a multiple bombing in a Shia district
of the capital.


Source: BBC.co.uk

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