Friday, June 15, 2007

Indefinite curfew declared after major Sunni shrine leveled near Basra

Above: Men maneuver through the rubble left after the destruction of the the shrine near Basra. The mosque had already been damaged by mortar fire yesterday.

Saboteurs destroyed a key Sunni mosque near Basra today in one of the biggest retaliatory attacks on a holy site since the bombing of a revered Shia shrine earlier in the week.

Only the front gate of the Talha Ibn Abdellah mosque was left standing after the gang planted bombs around the compound, blowing up two domes and a minaret. No injuries were reported.

An indefinite curfew was imposed on the city from 4.00 pm local time (1300 GMT) in a bid to stem any further attacks, police said.

Accounts differed of how the attack took place.

Major General Ali Mussawi, head of a government-formed security committee for the province, was quoted as saying a gang of people arrived with a camera, pretending they wanted to film the mosque in the town of Zubair, southwest of Basra.

Instead the men planted bombs inside the structure and raised it to the ground.

An Iraqi policeman manning a checkpoint nearby, however, said four gunmen visited the compound in the middle of the night and planted sticks of dynamite. They returned at 6.30am in a car and pressed the ignition button.

Offering a third version of events, an Iraqi soldier who said he had had been guarding the site claimed that a large group of attackers turned up early in the morning.

They sprinkled white, explosive powder around the compound and detonated it, the Army Captain told The Times. “The attack took five minutes. It was very professional,” he said.

Read the rest at the Times of London

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