Iraq: Samarra’s Golden Mosque hit again —reprisals target Sunni mosques

Two minarets at Shia Islam’s revered Golden Mosque in the Iraqi city of Samarra were blown up June 13. The government has imposed a total curfew on the city until further notice. Shi’ite officials blamed al-Qaeda for the attack, but Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric, has called for restraint. “He condemns the attack and urges calm and not to do acts of reprisal against Sunnis,” Sistani’s spokesman, Hamed Khafaf, told Reuters.

“This is a criminal act which aims at creating sectarian strife,” Saleh al-Haidari, the head of the Shi’ite Endowment in Iraq, the body responsible for overseeing shrines and sacred sites. Shi’ite militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr also urged his followers to remain calm, saying in a statement, “I do not believe a Sunni or Muslim would do this.”

The Golden Mosque’s dome was blown up in February 2006, in attack attributed to al-Qaeda which sparked a cycle of Sunni-Shi’ite reprisals that left thousands dead, and in which Sadr’s Mahdi Army is said to have participated.

Two of Shia’s 12 revered imams are buried in the Samarra shrine—Imam Ali al-Hadi, the 10th Imam, d. 868; and his son, the 11th imam, Hasan al-Askari, d. 874. (Reuters; Alam News, Iran, June 13)

Reports are already mounting of reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. Reuters reports that the Grand Mosque in Iskandariya’s Grand Mosque was completely destroyed in a bomb attack. Voice of Iraq (VOI) reports that the Hiteen Mosque and Abdullah Mosque, also in the Iskandariya district south of Baghdad, were blown up as well. The London Times reports that in the mixed Sunni-Shi’ite Baghdad district of Ghazaliyah, fighters aimed mortars at the al-Muhajareen Mosque, but were dispersed by the Iraqi Army. (Iraq Slogger, June 13)

In Iran, Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel condemned the Samarra attack, but implicitly blames the US occupation. “The responsibility for such events lies with those who have gone on expedition to the Middle East, covetous of (regional) oil,” he said. (IRNA, June 13)

On April 28, a suicide blast apparently targeted the golden-domed Al-Abbas Mosque in Karbala, resting place of Imam al-Abbas (brother of Hussein, the Third Imam and grandson of the Prophet, d. 680, although not one of the official Twelve Imams), killing 70 but failing to damage the building.

See our last posts on Iraq, the sectarian cleansing, al-Qaeda and Iran.

  1. Kashmir: Shi’ites protest attack on Iraq shrine
    AP, Jun. 14:

    Hundreds of Shi’ite Muslims protested across Indian-held Kashmir on Thursday against the destruction of two minarets at a revered Shi’ite shrine in Iraq, in a bombing blamed on al-Qaida insurgents.

    Over 500 angry demonstrators marched through Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s Jammu-Kashmir state, carrying black flags and copies of the Quran and burned effigies of US President George W. Bush.

    The protesters also blocked roads and set tires and piles of trash alight.

  2. Sunni shrine destroyed near Basra
    Basra is under curfew following the June 15 destruction of a nearby important Sunni shrine in a bomb attack, presumably in retaliation by Shi’ite militants for the June 13 attack on Samarra’s Golden Mosque. The Talha Mosque, at al-Zubair outside Basra, was the resting place of Sahabi (companion of the Prophet) Talha bin Obaid Ellah. It was reduced to rubble in the blast. (Reuters, June 15; The Hindu, June 16)