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Iraqi Investigation Concludes Fireworks As Reason for Assyrian Wedding Fire, Church Rejects Results
By Azhi Rasul
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Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Benedictus Younan Hanno (left) and Iraq's Interior Minister Abdul-Amir al-Shammari. ( Rudaw)
Iraq's interior ministry on Sunday announced that the tragic fire at a Hamdaniya [Baghdede in Assyrian] banquet hall was "accidental", noting that the fire was caused as a result of contact between a fire source with highly flammable material inside the banquet hall, and the Syriac Catholic Church has rejected the results.

"The investigation committee conclusively found out that the incident was accidental and it was not intentional at all," Major General Kadhim Salman Buhan, advisor to the Iraqi interior minister said in a press conference in Baghdad.

Buhan stated that the fire was caused by negligence and the use of prohibited, highly flammable construction materials in the hall.

"The decoration material in the ceiling of the hall was artificial straw highly sensitive to heat, and the usage of four devices to activate fireworks simultaneously was one of the main reasons for the fire," he added.

Iraq's Interior Minister Abdul-Amir al-Shammari, said that the investigative committee has recommended recognizing the victims of the Hamdaniya incident as martyrs. In addition, the committee has recommended the dismissal of Hamdaniya's mayor, the head of the Iraqi civil defense, and several other officials in the Christian-majority district.

Minutes following the press conference, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Benedictus Younan Hanno slammed the results of the investigation committee and that the church rejected the results of the investigations.

"We rejected it [the results], we don't accept it. Now we will meet with the religious leaders in the area and we will have a decision regarding this matter within 24 hours," said Archbishop Hanno.

The archbishop added that they also refuse the recommendations of dismissal to the heads of the directorates of the district, "I feel that there are political conspiracies behind these dismissals," he said.

Mosul's Archbishop said that there are political parties who try to use the tragedy for political gains, adding that he calls on his people to boycott the elections.

"I call on all the Christian people who are with us, and those who are associated to me, to boycott the elections," said the Archbishop, saying that this might be their official stance within 24 hours.

"We want a fight against real corrupt people and a report that quenches our thirst," He said, adding that they reject the conclusion of fireworks being the main reason for the fire, "there are tens of videos showing that it they were not the reason."

Some 1,000 people were celebrating the wedding of Haneen, the bride, and Rivan, the groom, in a banquet hall in the Iraqi northern town of Hamdaniya on Tuesday night. Their joy soon turned into a tragedy after a fire broke out and killed over 100 party-goers.

Funeral processions for dozens of the victims are being held in Hamdaniya since Wednesday.

Hamdaniya is one of Iraq's only Christian-majority districts, located in the Nineveh Plains near Mosul, a historic Assyrian region. Like many Christian towns in the Nineveh Plains, it was taken over by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists during their brazen sweep of northern Iraq, where they declared a so-called "caliphate" and inflicted grave atrocities on minority groups, including Christians.

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