Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A new attack on Samarra’s Askari sanctuary, in Iraq, also known as the Golden Mosque, one of Shiite Islam’s most sacred sites. Unconfirmed reports speak of the two minarets, having been gravely or totally destroyed by a bomb blast at around 9 local time. It is still not clear whether there were victims in the attack, or if the blasts hit only one part of the mausoleum, deserted at the time. In February 2006 an attack on the same building destroyed its world famous golden dome, sparking off bloody sectarian battles which – according to non official data – led to the deaths of over 1,450 people.
The sanctuary houses the tomb of one of the 12 most venerated Imam’s in the world and is a focal point for Shiite pilgrims. “the explosion targeted the two golden minarets. They were badly damaged …. this is a terrorist attack which aims to provoke widespread sectarian violence”, said Saleh al-Haidari, head of Iraq’s Shiite Fund, an important religious organisation.
Samarra is a majority Sunni area and has been at the centre of the armed battle against the Americans and Shiite controlled central administration.
The Iraqi government attributed the 2006 attack to al Qaeda. Since then there has been no attempts to rebuild the sanctuary, partly because of the discord between Shiites and Sunnis on how such a project should be carried out.