BAGHDAD, Iraq, AP – Iraqis armed with bombs destroyed a Sunni Arab shrine near the volatile city of Baqouba on Thursday in an apparent reprisal attack less than a week after similar bombings heavily damaged six Shiite shrines in the area.
The attack, like the previous ones, was carried out early in the morning, resulting in no casualties, but desecration of the holy sites occurred in a mixed Sunni Arab-Shiite region of the country where sectarian tensions are running high.
In Thursday’s strike, hidden bombs exploded inside the small Sharhabil bin Hassan shrine in Kanan, a town about 13 miles northeast of Baqouba, police said on condition of anonymity out of concern for their own security. The building was destroyed.
Last Saturday, six Shiite shrines were heavily damaged or destroyed by bombs hidden in or near them in the Baqouba area, creating widespread fears of reprisal attacks against Sunnis.
“Such acts anger God and hurt the feeling of all honest Iraqis,” Shiite cleric Adnan al-Rubaie from Baqouba had said at the time. “The goal is clear — to ignite a civil strife. God’s curse on everybody who tries to create sedition in this country.”
On Feb. 22, bombs heavily damaged the Golden Dome in Samarra, which holds the tomb of Shiite Imam Jabir’s grandfather. That attack 60 miles north of Baghdad triggered a wave of reprisal attacks against Sunnis, dramatically escalating sectarian tension and pushing the country to the brink of civil war.