An attack on a Shi’ite mosque has sent tensions among Iraqi muslims soaring. The Golden Mosque in Samarra is one of the most sacred shrines to Shi’ites in the country. This morning a group of armed men broke in and detonated explosives which brought the dome crashing to the ground. There has been no claim of responsibilty but some Shi’ites have directed their rage at militants from the minority Sunni community.
As people took their anger onto the streets the Iraqi government’s national security advisor accused al Qaeda-led Sunnis of trying to stoke civil war. The leading Sunni religious body and some Sunni politicians have condemned the attack. Both Iraq’s Sunni president and its Shi’ite prime minister have appealed for calm.
But around the country there have been angry protests. There are reports that six Sunnis, including three imams, were killed in revenge attacks in Baghdad. Dozens of Sunni mosques are also said to have been damaged or destroyed. In the mainly Shi’ite city of Basra police, were there were also demonstrations, police said gunmen fired on the offices of the main Sunni political group, the Iraqi Islamic Party.
In recent years there’ve been numerous deadly attacks on Shi’ites which have been blamed on militants and which, analysts say, were intend to provoke a backlash and destablise the country. But this single symbolic strike one of the religion’s holiest shrines appears to have generated more widespread outrage than previous attacks.