Attack on Samarra shrine widely condemned

Muslims across the Middle East – Sunnis and Shiites alike – largely ignored sectarian divides today to unite in condemnation of the the bombing that destroyed of the golden dome that graced one of Iraq’s holiest Shiite shrines.

King Abdullah II, the Jordanian monarch, call it “a heinous attack … (that) has greatly angered us and has provoked our strong feelings as direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed.”

Radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who was touring the region, cut short a visit to Lebanon to return to his troubled homeland.

At a news conference when he reached Damascus, Syria, al-Sadr laid blame either with the Americans or the Iraqi government.

“If responsibility is not in the hands of the Iraqi government, then I consider the responsibility for this event lies with the occupation forces which should either leave immediately or according to a timetable,” the firebrand cleric told reporters.

In Egypt, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, leader the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni organisation that is the world’s oldest and largest conservative Islamic movement, appealed to “all Iraqi brothers, Sunnis and Shiites, to comprehend the conspiracy which is targeting all Iraqi people and to stand united to deter the sedition that might destroy everything.”

Influential Egyptian Sunni cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi said the blast was “a very dangerous action that kindles the fires of sedition.”

He refused to accept that fellow Sunnis were behind the bomb blasts that ripped apart the golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

“We cannot imagine that the Iraqi Sunnis did this. So who did do it? Who planned with such slyness and precision and got away without being arrested?” he said.

“No one benefits from such acts other than the US occupation and the lurking Zionist enemy.”

The bombing of the shrine, which contains the tombs of two revered Shiite imams – both descendants of the Prophet Mohammed – was the third major attack against Shiite targets in as many days.

It was feared today’s violence could ignite an all-out sectarian conflict in Iraq with passions are already high as Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds struggle to reach a compromise on a new government.

In Lebanon, which suffered mightily during its own sectarian civil war, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said: “This terrorist act did not target a particular sect as much as it targeted Iraq in its entirety.

“Therefore, the response from Iraqis should be more unity and security in safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and pioneering role in the region.”

Lebanon’s powerful Shiite militant Hezbollah organisation blamed the US.

“We call upon Muslims everywhere, and especially in Iraq, to avoid falling into a major trap of sedition designed for them by the American occupation and their agents inside Iraq,” Hezbollah said in a statement.

Lebanon’s League of Muslim Ulemas, a grouping of Sunni Muslim clerics, also denounced the attack and called on Sunnis and all Muslims to take the “proper stand in this tragedy, and confront those who committed it, whomever they may be.”

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said: “This criminal act is aimed at sowing dissension among members of the same people and splitting Shiite and Sunni Muslims with the aim of striking Iraq’s unity and the unity of Islamic ranks.”

Jordan’s King, in a message to the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, said: “This hideous criminal act carried out by a lost and cowardly group aims at inciting sectarian strife among the brotherly Iraqi people.”

The Qom Shiite Seminary, Iran’s most influential clerical body, said in a statement that the “Ayatollahs…have condemned the explosion and announced one-day public mourning.”

Hashem Hosseini, the head of the seminary, told the state-run television all classes of the seminary will be closed in protest against the attack.

Kuwait’s new emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, sent a message to the Iraqi president saying those that “target holy places, and kill and terrorise innocent people are as far as can be from the teachings of Islam.”

Kuwait’s senior Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Muhri, accused fundamentalist Sunni Muslims who “blow up cars and kill innocent Iraqis. We call on the Iraqi authorities to arrest them immediately and punish them,” al-Muhri said.

“They felt ousted by the new Iraqi government and they want to put obstacles in its way,” he said.

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