Several Sunni mosques have been attacked in apparent retaliation for the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. At least four people were killed in the most recent violence, but increased security and a curfew kept most of Iraq calm.
Police in Basra said six people were also wounded when the Kawaz, Othman, al-Abayshi and Basra Grand mosques were hit by rocket-propelled grenades shortly after Wednesday's bombing in Samarra. Four Sunni mosques near Baghdad were also attacked several hours after the two minarets at the Askariya Shiite shrine were toppled.
Sunni insurgents were blamed for Wednesday's attack on the shrine, one of Iraq's most holy sites for Shiite Muslims. A bombing of the same mosque last year resulted in a bloody, sectarian confrontation between Shiites and Sunnis that left hundreds dead.
Immediately after the shrine was bombed, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki put Baghdad and Samarra under an indefinite curfew in hopes of heading off a wave of violence. He also restricted vehicular traffic through Baghdad, a measure that is expected to remain in place until Saturday.
In addition, U.S. and Iraqi military patrols increased security on the streets of Baghdad and set up additional checkpoints on roads leading to the Sadr City neighborhood, a stronghold of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.
Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called for a three-day mourning period to mark the minarets' destruction, but he also asked that demonstrations be peaceful. Hundreds of Shiites marched through the streets of the Sadr City, and peaceful demonstrations also took place in Kut, Diwaniyah, Najaf and Basra — predominantly Shiite cities in southern Iraq.
In the mid-afternoon, explosions rocked central Baghdad, and smoke billowed over the American-guarded Green Zone, which houses the U.S. and British embassies, as well as the offices of the Iraqi government.
A witness inside the zone, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his job, said about half a dozen mortar rounds fell in the area.
At least one rocket also fell near the entrance to the Rasheed Hotel, about 150 yards from Iraq's parliament, but there was no evidence of any casualties.
U.S. military officials said Iraqi forces arrested the Emergency Service Unit commander and 12 policemen responsible for security at the shrine when it was bombed.
From The Associated Press reports.