BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr cut short his visit to Lebanon on Wednesday after the destruction of the golden dome of a famous Shiite shrine in Iraq.
Al-Sadr cancelled a meeting with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and left by road for Syria, from where he was expected to travel to Iraq, reported Al-Manar television, the channel of the Shiite guerilla group Hezbollah.
Syrian government officials confirmed al-Sadr crossed the Lebanese-Syrian border about midday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Al-Manar television reported that al-Sadr had abandoned his 10-day trip to Lebanon, which began Tuesday, and headed for home in response to the blast at the Askariya mosque in Samarra.
The Iraqi government blamed the explosion on insurgents who broke into the Shiite shrine and planted explosivies. The shrine contains the tombs of two Shiite saints, Ali al-Hadi and his son Hassan al-Askari, who died in the 9th century.
In Baghdad, Sheik Abul-Zahra al-Sawaidi, the head of al-Sadr’s office in the Iraqi capital, said al-Sadr had canceled his appointments in Lebanon and was expected to return home.
Falah Hassan Shanshal, a member of al-Sadr’s bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said al-Sadr would arrive in Iraq later Wednesday.
Al-Sadr was on a tour of the Middle East to rally support for his stand in Iraq’s politics. Earlier he visited Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran. After Lebanon, he was due to go to Egypt.