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Shrine in Iraq Damaged in Attack

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Shrine in Iraq Damaged in Attack

Iraq

Shrine in Iraq Damaged in Attack

Shrine in Iraq Damaged in Attack

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Iraqis inspect the bombed shrine in the northern Iraqi city of Samarra. Dia Hamid/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Dia Hamid/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqis inspect the bombed shrine in the northern Iraqi city of Samarra.

Dia Hamid/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi officials are blaming al Qaeda and a Sunni militant group for an explosion at one of the country's most famous Shiite religious shrines. The blast in Samarra destroyed the golden dome and sent protesters into the streets.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Jamie Tarabay joins us now from Baghdad. And first, Jamie, how did insurgents, or whoever may have been behind this, commit this attack?

JAMIE TARABAY: As you know, this attack has really set off the Shiites. It's one of their most holy shrines. Buried in the Shrine are the Iman Ali al-Hadi, and Iman Hassan al-Askari. And they're two of the 12 imans of the Shiites, and the descendents of Iman Ali, who is the founder of Shiism. Just to give you an indication of how important this is to the Shiites, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has announced a three-day mourning period, and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called for seven days of mourning.

INSKEEP: Which helps to explain why there have already been protests here. Is this seen as even more significant than other deadly attacks against Shiites and Shiite targets?

TARABAY: People are angry. They're calling for revenge. One person rang up an Iraqi television station and said, you know, with all due respect to Sistani, enough is enough, and it's time to retaliate.

INSKEEP: People saying that peaceful protest will not be enough. And I have to ask, given the leaders you just mentioned, this is a time when Shiite Muslims, to some degree, have been arguing among themselves over who will control the country, and how the country will be controlled. Do you suddenly have a situation where Shiites are united, but maybe not in a good way?

TARABAY: The president's come out, the prime minister's come out, all to condemn the attack. They've launched investigation committees. A Sunni endowment group, which is in charge of Sunni mosques and shrines, has also said it's going to send an investigative committee to Samarra to see what's happened. So, I mean, the atmosphere here is very tense. People are very angry. And we're not really sure what's going to happen next.

INSKEEP: Jamie, thanks very much.

TARABAY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: We've been talking to NPR's Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad, where a Shiite shrine, a golden dome visible for miles, was the target of an attack today.

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