Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Shiite al-Askari shrine in Samarra destroyed in Iraq

One of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam was destroyed today in Iraq, its golden dome blown to bits.

The al-Askari shrine has existed since 944 CE and and was built to house the tombs of two ninth century imams, direct descendants of Mohammad.Ali al-Hadi, the tenth imam who died in 868 and his son Hassan al-Askari who died in 874, were buried in the shrine located at Samarra, Iraq, then newly built as the capital of the Abbasid empire.

But the intense religious importance of the site is connected to the 12th imam, the so-called "Hidden Imam" who Shias believe went into hiding in 878 under the al-Askariya shrine to prepare for his eventual return among men.

In retaliation, the Shiias burnt over a dozen Sunni mosques, and attacked many more.
Blast at Iraqi Shiite Shrine Spawns Reprisals Against Sunnis --
Tens of thousands of the Shiites took to the streets in Baghdad, Samarra, Najaf and Karbala and other Iraqi cities, waving green flags and Iraq's national flag and vowing to avenge the attack on the sacred Shiite shrine.

U.S. and Iraqi forces cordoned off Samarra city, preventing people from entering or leaving.

This is a major setback in the attempt of Iraq to form a unity government, and will only harden the Shiite resistance to increasing Sunni representation in the cabinet, as demanded by U.S Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Monday.

The country is in danger of erupting into civil war.

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