Shiite and Sunni Muslims have been killing each other for years over trivial differences in the way they interpret the Koran. The violence took a turn for the worse in 2006 when the two sects began fighting for control over the Askariya Shrine in Samarra, a site that has been deemed holy. Since then, retaliatory attacks have been exchanged and left hundreds of civilians dead.
A recent attack by a suicide bomber who rammed his car into a Shiite religious building killed 18 and left 125 wounded. Later that day, a bomb was found lodged in the back of a Sunni Endowment office. The area was cordoned off where police safely detonated it.
Sunni and Shiite endowment offices are the logistical centers for religious matters regarding mosques and cultural locations. The two authorities have been disputing over how the Askariya shrine and surrounding perimeter should be reconstructed and developed.
While violence in Iraq has quelled in recent months, sectarian attacks remain a serious epidemic. Just a few days before, a series of bombings took place at a Shiite neighborhood market, killing 17 and injuring scores of others.
Some locals suspect that some of the attacks are orchestrated by government officials, as it is believed that some who hold office have ties to militia.
Following the 2006 bombing, an army brigade was dispatched to seize control of the shrine from the Sunni locals. This began a steady transition where rights to the shrine were given to the Shiite endowment. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, however, has taken measures to prevent full control from being granted to the Shiites. Sunni officials from Sumarra have vowed to take legal action to limit Shiite authority over the shrine.
Though Sunni Muslims are the minority, they held control over most of Iraqi policy and law. That is, until the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s reign. Since then, the tide has shifted to the Shiite majority. This has created embitterment that led to the back and forth violence that has resulted in nothing other than countless civilian deaths.