Iraqis Celebrate Soccer Win -Progress in Samarra

The following Good News was sent by Iraqi-American Haider Ajina from the Iraq media:

Fans welcome members of the Iraqi soccer team, who won the AFC Asian Cup soccer tournament upon arrival in Baghdad airport August 3, 2007. Weeping tears of joy and pride, Iraq’s soccer champions arrived home on Friday to celebrate the Asian Cup victory that inspired their nation, but heavy security meant few Baghdadis were able to join the party. Picture taken August 3, 2007. (REUTERS/Saad Shalash)

Iraq soccer team wins 14th Asia Cup of Nations
Baghdad – Voices of Iraq
Friday , August 3rd 2007

On Jul 29, Iraq’s soccer team won the 14th Asia Cup of Nations in Jakarta after defeating Saudi Arabia with a header scored by striker Mahmud Younis in the 71st minute of the second half of the final match on Sunday.

The goal is the fourth for Younis, the undisputed man of the match, in this championship, but still a Saudi player, Yassir al-Qahtani, has the same number of goals.

During the past 32 years, the two teams met in eliminations qualifying for the Asian Cup, two of them ended in Iraq’s favor, one in Saudi Arabia’s, and the fourth ended in a tie.

The Saudis were seeking a fourth title in the prestigious Asian football tournament while the Iraqis were dreaming of a first-timer, having failed to snatch the cup since their first participation in the 1972 tournament in Thailand.

Iraq and Saudi Arabia played in 30 encounters, 12 of them were won by the Iraqis, nine by the Saudis and nine ended in draws. The Iraqi team qualified for the finals after defeating South Korean 4/3 by penalty shootouts, during their semi-final match held in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday. Saudi Arabia qualified to the final after defeating the Japanese 3/2 in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi in their semi-final match. The final game was purely Arab for the first time in the history of the tournament that is being played this year in four Asian countries: Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Haider Ajina comments:

During the game most streets in Iraq were quiet. Celebrations broke out in the streets after the Iraqi team won the championship, throwing candy, shooting fireworks, and hoisting Iraqi flags in triumph. Iraqi soldiers waved from passing humvees. In Kurdistan the game was televised in malls, where viewers held up Iraqi flags. In Baghdad the game was televised in hotels. Concerns were voiced if the team could come home to be honored. Due to their high profile they represent a target for the terrorist. The team landed in Baghdad airport on August 3rd. and in spite of the extreme heat and security risk, was met by hundreds of fans at the airport.

The following is a translation of an article from Buratha News of 8-6-07 and an English article from Voices of Iraq.

Iraq’s Samara cleansed of terrorists and reconstruction to start

The governor of Salah Aldien province Hamed Hamood Al-Qaisi said (in an interview with radio Alsawa), ‘Security operations carried out in Samara have cleansed the city from armed terrorists. Normal life has returned to the city. Non Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi suspects have been arrested. The city was controlled by these armed terrorists and has been unstable for some time now. The security operation started from the center of the city and worked its way outwards.

Al-Qaisi mentioned the close coordination and cooperation of security forces between Baghdad and the provincial authorities. The earth wall erected around the city helped tremendously in restricting the movements of armed terrorists. Samara is now cleansed of armed terrorist. The cooperation and coordination between Baghdad and the provincial government was fantastic and exemplary. As was the cooperation and coordination between national security agencies, the Army and local police. We started by building an earth barrier and observation towers to surround the city of Samara. With only two controlled openings one in the south in the direction of Dheluiah and one in the north in the direction of Aldoor. The securety operation was lead by Iraqi forces with support form MNF (Multi National Forces) arrested a number of suspects, Iraqis and non Iraqis. Smiles have returned to the faces locals now that security has returned to Samara. We have cleansed the city from the terrorists who defiled its soil and killed the innocent. As to the difficulty the government is facing in securing the Samara Baghdad highway Al-Qaisi said, ‘We must place it under military security and observation pots should be places along it.’

Provincial Governer Al-Qaisi confirmed that life has returned to normal in Samara. Samara will soon witness the special attention the province will give it in rebuilding and improvements. The chief of provincial police of Salah Aldine added that normal life has returned to the city a few days after the wide spread security operation. Future operations will focuse on reconstruction and improvement.

Haider comments,

The ancient city of Samara is the home of the Askariah Shrines built in the late 900’s. The Shrines are a strong Shiite religious symbol. The first attack on the shrines in February of 2006 sparked the escalation in violence and pitched Shiite against Sunni. The aim of the terrorist who bombed the shrine was a full blown civil war. This of course did not happen. The calls for restraint from all Iraqi religious leaders helped calm the situation and averted large blood shed. A second attack happened in June of 2007 by Alqaida to again try to provoke Iraqis into civil war or large revenge killings. Again this failed. Thanks to calls for calm and restraint from all religious leaders and political figures. These high profile provocations by Alqida and the former Baathisst show the desperation of the terrorists. The now calm and control of Samara is a testament to the will of Iraqis to defeat the terrorist and rebuild their country. It is also shows the success of the surge which has now spread to areas north and east of Baghdad.

Regards,
Haider Ajina

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