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.
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.