Iraq executes Tunisian over Shiite shrine attack

AP News
Posted: Nov 17, 2011 10:18 AM
Iraq executes Tunisian over Shiite shrine attack

Iraq executed a Tunisian man convicted of the 2006 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine that set off the worst of the country's sectarian violence, a senior Iraqi official said Thursday.

Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim said that Yusri Fakhir, who was convicted early this year of the bombing on the al-Askari shrine in Sunni city of Samarra, was executed Wednesday in Baghdad. Ten other people _ one Egyptian and nine Iraqis _ also were executed on unrelated terrorism convictions, Ibrahim said.

The Tunisian Foreign Ministry expressed its "regret and displeasure" following the execution, which happened "despite the efforts undertaken by the Tunisian state" to try to win a reprieve for Fakhir.

Last week, Tunisia's interim president sent a letter to his Iraqi counterpart, Jalal Talabani, asking for Fakhir's release.

Fakhir's father told the Tunisian state news agency TAP that his son was innocent of any crime.

"I consider my son a martyr and his final resting place is paradise," Fakhir Trigui said. "There is no reason to be ashamed because he did nothing wrong."

The attack on the al-Askari shrine in Samarra, some 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Baghdad, unleashed unprecedented tit-for-tat killings between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite communities. Shiite militias carried out a bloody campaign against Sunnis, who responded in turn. Thousands were killed, neighbors turned against neighbors, and Iraq nearly descended into civil war.

The Samarra shrine is revered because it contains the tombs of the 10th and 11th imams, the 9th century saint-like figures who were considered the leaders of the community. The shrine also marks the birthplace of the 12th imam, known as the Mahdi.

Shiites consider the Mahdi the "hidden imam," a messianic figure who disappeared but will one day return, signifying the Day of Judgment.

Also Thursday, a parked car bomb went off next to an Iraqi military patrol south of Baghdad, killing two soldiers and two civilians, a police officer and a doctor said.

Eight other people were wounded in the blast in the town of Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Baghdad.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

Violence across Iraq has dropped dramatically over the last three years but deadly attacks still happen nearly every day.


Associated Press writer Bouazza Ben Bouazza contributed to this report from Tunis, Tunisia.