The Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Benedictus Younan Hanno, described the results of an investigation announced by the Interior Ministry on a fire at a wedding hall in Al-Hamdaniya as “shameful,” questioning the measures taken by the government authorities in dismissing some heads of the directorates of the district.
Scores of panicked guests surged for the exits last week in the Haitham Royal Wedding Hall in the predominantly Christian area of Hamdaniya in Nineveh province after the ceiling panels above a pyrotechnic machine burst into flames.
Iraq released the results of its probe on Sunday saying unsafe fireworks were the main reason that caused the deadly fire.
On Monday, the Nineveh Heath Department updated the death toll to 113, including 41 who have not been identified yet. It said 12 people who suffered severe burns were sent for treatment abroad and eight will follow.
In a press conference on Sunday evening, the archbishop rejected the outcome of the probe, saying: “There are things that don’t make sense in this investigation... I feel that there are political conspiracies behind these dismissals.”
Some reports indicated that most of the sacked employees belonged to the Christian community and other minorities. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that some “armed groups close to the Catholic Church fear that the fire will be used as a pretext to settle scores and dismiss local Christian officials in favor of their opponents from other sects and minorities.”
Hanno called for “an international investigation based on clear facts and strategy.” He continued: “We are with the state in expelling any corrupt manager with evidence and documents. But we give the authorities 24 hours to withdraw this decision and take matters seriously.”
The investigative committee formed by the federal authorities recommended the dismissal of the mayor of Hamdaniya, the town’s municipal director, the director of tourism classification in Nineveh Governorate, the director of Hamdaniya Electricity and the director of the Fire and Safety Directorate in the Civil Defense Directorate in Nineveh, as well as the referral of the director of civil defense in the governorate to a specialized committee.
On Saturday, the head of the investigation committee, Major General Saad Al-Dulaimi, said that the venue was overcrowded, and roofed with flammable sandwich panels and decorations made from flammable materials.
“The committee noticed that there were no emergency doors other than the small and insufficient service doors, and no safety supplies, which led to a large fire and heavy losses among the people in the hall,” he stated.