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Saturday, February 25, 2006

 

NYT: Younger Clerics Showing Power in Iraq's Unrest

By ROBERT F. WORTH and EDWARD WONG

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 25 — American officials have been repeatedly stunned and frequently thwarted in the past three years by the extraordinary power of Muslim clerics over Iraqi society. But in the sectarian violence of the past few days, that power has taken a new and ominous turn, as rival hard-line Shiite clerical factions have pushed each other toward ever more militant and anti-American stances, Iraqi and Western officials say.

Even Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the paramount Shiite cleric to whom the Americans have often looked for moderation, appears to have been outflanked by younger and more aggressive figures. After a bomb exploded in Samarra at one of Iraq's most sacred Shiite shrines on Wednesday, many young Shiites ignored Ayatollah Sistani's pleas for calm, instead heeding more extreme calls and attacking Sunni mosques and killing Sunni civilians, even imams, in a crisis that has threatened to provoke open civil war.

On Saturday, the sectarian bloodletting continued in Karbala and the Baghdad area, bringing the death toll since the bombing to more than 200.

Full N.Y. Times story.

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