- Title: IRAQ: Huge Bomb Blast destroys Shi'ite Imam Ali Al-Hadi shrine in Samarra
- Date: 22nd February 2006
- Summary: HEAP OF DAMAGED BRICKS INSIDE SHRINE CLOSE OF DAMAGE TO FACADE LEADING TO SHRINE ZOOM IN/PAN: HEAPS OF DAMAGED BRICKS ON GROUND DAMAGED WALL OF THE BUILDING OF SHRINE
- Embargoed: 9th March 2006 12:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVAA0HW8U0PMW9Y4CFWLFU6U4YHN
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: A dawn bomb attack wrecked a major Shi'ite Muslim shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra on Wednesday (February 22), sparking clashes and protests across the country and forcing an urgent government appeal to avert sectarian reprisals.
Gunmen burst into the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of four key Shi'ite holy sites in Iraq, and planted explosives to bring down its 100-year-old, gilded dome, one of the biggest in the Muslim world, senior officials said. It seemed no one was hurt.
An aerial photograph released by the U.S. military showed the 20-metre wide dome reduced to a hollow shell of brown masonry and twisted iron framework, with surrounding buildings also wrecked.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said the attackers wore police uniforms, tied up the mosque's guards and set their charges.
As gunmen attacked Sunni mosques, Shi'ite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari declared three days of mourning and called for Muslim unity. His security adviser blamed al Qaeda and said they would fail to provoke Shi'ites into waging an all-out civil war.
He was later quoted saying 10 suspects were held in Samarra.
The interim government had despatched officials to the city,100 km (60 km) north of Baghdad, Jaafari said; the mainly Sunni town was sealed off to outsiders by security forces, residents said. Samarra police said they fired over demonstrators' heads at one point as they chanted religious and anti-American slogans.
Sunni rebels are strong in Samarra and there have been attacks recently on Shi'ite pilgrims visiting the shrine to the revered 9th-century imams Ali al-Hadi and his son Hassan al-Askari. Shi'ite Web sites said relics of the buried imams, including a helmet and shield, were damaged in the explosions.
In the holy city of Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the revered authority for millions and a key force for Shi'ite restraint in the face of Sunni insurgent attacks, made a rare call for "suitable protests" and declared seven days of mourning.
He insisted in a statement, however, that there must be no violence and in particular no reprisals against Sunni mosques.
Outside his office, 2,000 demonstrators chanted: "Rise up Shi'ites! Shi'ites take revenge! Rise up Shi'ites!"
Sectarian attacks by the likes of al Qaeda, led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on Shi'ite gatherings have failed to spark all-out reprisals, although Sunnis do accuse the Shi'ite-led interim government of condoning police death squads.
The symbolic attack on the shrine appeared to spark greater violent
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