Monday, February 12, 2007

Iraq commemorates bombing of the 'Mosque of the Golden Dome' in Samarra

The 'Mosque of the Golden Dome', was destroyed in an insurgent attack in February 2006. The attack was labelled the 'Shi'ite 9/11' and resulted in a surge of sectarian violence that has wracked the country since.

Iraqi Shiites have launched rallies to commemorate the first anniversary of the destruction of one of their most sacred shrines, a bombing which triggered widespread sectarian bloodshed.

The golden dome of the 1,000-year-old Imam Ali al-Hadi mausoleum in the northern city of Samarra was demolished by bombers on February 22, 2006, one year ago according to the Islamic calendar.

A 15-minute silence to mark the attack was shattered by a massive blast at the Shorja Market, the main commercial centre of Baghdad, which sent up thick pillars of black smoke and was followed by two smaller blasts.

The outrage in Samarra unleashed sectarian killings that has left more than 34,400 people dead in Iraq last year, according to UN figures.

On Monday, hundreds of Shiites gathered in Baghdad's impoverished Sadr City, a bastion of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, to commemorate the bombing and demand the shrine be rebuilt.

In Karbala, one of the two most holy Shiite cities, more than 3,000 more protesters held their own rally, an AFP photograher said Monday, while hundreds more marched in Al-Amara, southern Iraq.

In Najaf, the other sacred city, Iraq's most senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called for religious tolerance and pressed the government to move more quickly to rebuild the shrine.

"We call on Muslims who commemorate this sad anniversary to exercise strict discipline and not voice hatred or commit evil acts against our Sunni brothers because they are innocent of this crime," Sistani's office said.

Read the rest at France 24