Fourth worst ever terror attack that killed 796 was sparked by teen love story

On this day 15 years ago (August 14, 2007) 796 people were killed and at least 1,500 others wounded in what was the fourth deadliest terror attack of all time.

Some think it was the final domino in a chain that started with a girl, 17, falling in love with a boy who belonged to a different religion.

The Yazidi communities bombings consisted of four coordinated suicide truck bomb attacks in the towns of Til Ezer and Siba Sheikh Khidir in Iraq.

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Those towns were mostly home to Yazidis, a minority group indigenous to Kurdistan with their own ethnic religion – Yazidism.

Within the context of the Iraq war, tensions had been building up in northern Iraq between Yazidis and Sunni Muslims in the months prior to the attack.

According to Al Jazeera: "The Yazidis are considered heretics by some Muslims because they originate much of their beliefs and practices from non-Islamic sources, including a myriad of ancient polytheistic religions."

Multiple outlets have reported that al-Qaeda were distributing leaflets in the region denouncing Yazidis as "anti-Islamic".

Tensions between the two groups came to a head when Du'a Khalil Aswad, 17, was stoned to death by fellow Yazidis on April 7, 2007.

She had reportedly fallen in love with a Sunni Muslim and was believed to have wanted to convert so that she could marry him.

Journalist Mark Lattimer wrote in his book Freedom Lost: "Some people tell me she had run away with her Muslim boyfriend and they had been stopped at a checkpoint outside Mosul; others say she had been seen by her father and uncle just talking with the boy in public and, fearing her family's reaction, they had sought protection at the police station.

"Either way, the police handed Du'a into the custody of a local Yazidi sheikh."

Du'a was stoned to death for 30 minutes by a large crowd in the town of Bashika, a grisly ordeal that was recorded and posted to the internet where it was seen by Sunni Muslims.

Several Sunni attacks in the subsequent weeks and months were said to be in direct retaliation, including one when just two weeks later 23 Yazidi men were forced from a bus and killed by gunmen.

Several sources have linked it to the Yazidi communities bombings.

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Although no group claimed responsibility for the attacks – which saw two tons of explosives used to lay waste to entire neighbourhoods – the West has laid the blame firmly with al-Qaeda.

On September 3, 2007 a US military airstrike killed Abu Mohammad al-Afri, an al-Qaeda leader the US said was the mastermind.

"He is no longer a threat to the Iraqi people. We will continue to hunt down al-Qaeda in Iraq and their operatives who conduct indiscriminate and brutal attacks against the Iraqi people," military spokesman Rear Admiral Mark Fox said at the time.


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