Unified prayer held in Baghdad after violence

Sunnis and Shiites held a unified prayer in Baghdad after ‘infiltrators’ attacked a Sunni endowment building in the capital

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Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi attended a unified prayer session held between Sunnis and Shiites in the capital Baghdad after unknown assailants attacked the Sunni endowment building in the Sunni district area of Adhamiyah.

The violence on Thursday killed four people in Adhamiyah after Shiite pilgrims – heading to the holy Shiite site on the other side of the Tigris river - passed through the area.

Unknown mobs set 17 houses and the religious endowment building on fire. Police sources told AFP that four people were burnt to death trapped inside their torched homes but medical sources said some of the victims had bullet wounds.

Police said “some elements infiltrated in the midst of the pilgrims heading to the shrine of Imam Musa Kadhim attacked a Sunni Waqf (endowment) building.”

But Iraqi officials warned that the violence was a plot to divide Iraqis with prominent Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr denouncing the “insolent” act as unrepresentative of Islam.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said “some are angered by the fact that Iraqis are united in facing terrorism, that’s why they tried to sow this discord.”

However, some people on social media derided the government blaming “infiltrators” after a 10:16 minute video surfaced online, showing voice and faces of some of the perpetrators.

“There are women there,” one said in one segment of the video, with another person later on said: “They’re Daeshis [belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria].”

One Twitter user wrote in reaction, “hundreds of infiltrators? Pillaging institutions, houses of civilians and under protection of security?” in reference to shots fired by police officers to maintain the situation.

One officer told AFP that the violence broke out after 2:00 am (1100 GMT) when members of the crowd spread a rumor that a suicide bomber was among them.

He said police fired shots in the air in an attempt to contain the panic but the violence only swelled because the crowd thought they were being shot at by Adhamiyah residents.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the local Al-Baghdadia News, Obaidi said a “small number of people” were behind the violence, adding that “Iraqi brotherhood” cannot be “destroyed by some infiltrators.”

Some arrests were made, however, no new information was made available.