Iraqi Security Tenuous After Samarra Attack

Iraq's national security adviser, Moaffak al-Rubaie, talks to Melissa Block about the violence that has engulfed Iraq after yesterday's bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque in Samarra.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. And we're continuing with our coverage of the violence that has engulfed Iraq after yesterday's bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque in Samarra. Late today Iraq's government announced it is extending a curfew in an effort to calm the situation.

BLOCK: We're joined from Baghdad by Iraq's National Security Adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie. Thanks for being with us.

Dr. MOWAFFAK al-RUBAIE (Iraq National Security Adviser): Thank you for having me ma'am.

BLOCK: What can you tell us about the daytime curfew that's now been imposed by the Iraqi government?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: I think the central government has to exercise its authority to stop people movement and to reduce an impossible level of violence during Friday. And Friday is normally a very busy day in the capital and in the provinces that are around the capital.

BLOCK: So you're imposing a curfew especially on a day when people would be heading to mosques to go to Friday prayers?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: Well see we have a detailed intelligence reporting on, since it might happen in the capital from the outskirts. And that's why we're trying to preempt any attacks on our people and this is the duty of the government to protect its own people.

BLOCK: What is the nature of that intelligence reporting that you're mentioning there?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: Sorry, I can't discuss the details of the intelligence reporting.

BLOCK: But you have some kind of information that further attacks on mosques are planned?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: I'm sorry I can't go into details on these, on these reports.

BLOCK: Let me ask you about yesterday's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. What is the best information that you have about who is responsible for that attack?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: We are still investigating this and we have managed to detain 10 people up to now. Two are very strong suspects of them. So we will have a very good lead in a very short period of time.

BLOCK: Are these home grown Iraqi insurgents? Are they outside elements from al Qaeda?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: At this moment of time, I cannot verify their nationalities.

BLOCK: There has been, as you know, concerned expressed about the people who were guarding the Shrine. Authorities in Samarra, which is mostly a Sunni town, had refused to allow Shiites to guard the Shrine, the Golden Mosque. Could Sunni guards themselves be complicit in allowing this bombing?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: I think we need to wait for the outcome of the investigation. We need to now not talk about this Shiite, Sunni. I believe we're going through a difficult time admittedly. We need period of calm and our people need to use their reasoning and we have sky high emotions running in the country on both communities. And we need to calm our people down.

BLOCK: We're hearing reports from our own Anne Garrels that this is, the situation is the worst she's seen in the three years that she's been going to Iraq. And there are a lot of fears of all out sectarian wars. Do you think those fears are well founded?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: That's absolutely not true. And to be quite honest with you, it is ridiculous. We're not in a state of civil war. There's a lot of exaggerated reporting. Somebody was reporting on a very respectable TV Channel, saying that 129 mosques had been burned or attacked. That is absolutely not true. It's only nine mosques been a drive-by shooting on them. So I think there's a lot of exaggeration. There is a lot of atmosphere for exaggerating the stories.

BLOCK: I believe that information is coming from the Sunni clerics themselves who said that 10 Sunni clerics have been killed and another 15 kidnapped. Are you saying that's not the case?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: I don't know. I haven't looked into this, and we need to investigate this in detail. I think I'm not going to reply to every single claim or accusation. We need to sit down and work out these crimes which were committed, if they are, if they were committed.

BLOCK: What is it that makes you optimistic about the security situation and how not so bad you think it might be?

Dr. al-RUBAIE: It's the intrinsic if you like, or the very cement of the, which tying the Iraqi people together is so strong, I don't think it's going, the al Qaeda and Iraq and the Saddamists are not going to be able to break this bond between the two communities. These bonds are, they went to very deep in the history of Iraq.

BLOCK: Well Dr. al-Rubaie thanks very much for talking with us today.

Dr. al-RUBAIE: Thank you madam.

BLOCK: Mowaffak al-Rubaie is Iraq's national security adviser. He spoke with us from Baghdad.

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