May 18 2009
THE BAD NEWS: Iraqi suicide bomber stopped in the nick of time.
Guardians at the Shiite Al-Zahra mosque in Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, managed to stop a young suicide bomber on May 1, moments before he could set his explosive belt alight during Fridays prayer.
The suicide bomber, Syrian-born Ammar Afif Hamada, aged 16, was allegedly executing orders from al Qaedas chief in Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. According to witnesses, he fired on a guardian as he charged into the mosque shouting Allah is great! The other guardians, Shiite Turkmen, managed to immobilise him and hand him over to the police, who then defused the explosives. The young suicide bomber later told the police he had been through a training camp in the Syrian city of Homs.
Kirkuk province is home to several communities, each involved in an ongoing power struggle. While Kurds form a majority, Turkmen see themselves as the original inhabitants of the region. There are also Assyro-Chaldeans and Arabs, many of whom were newcomers under Saddam Husseins Arabisation policy.
Neither Kirkuk province nor the three neighbouring Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq took part in the countrys January 31 local elections. The authorities now fear separate polls scheduled in the provinces for July 25 will be preceded by a surge in violence.