Shiite anger over shrine damage

A mortar round that exploded inside the Imam Ali mausoleum reportedly injured 10 people and damaged the upper part of one of the main gold-covered gates leading to the tomb of the revered imam.

It was unclear who was responsible for the damage.

Witnesses say rubble was strewn over the blood-stained floor of the shrine as a voice over the shrine’s loudspeakers condemned the attack.

The US Army denied it was responsible. “The coalition forces had no involvement in the damage to the Imam Ali mosque,” military spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said in Baghdad.

“We have heard different reports of what caused it — whether it was fighting between two different factions inside the city or whether it was… Moqtada’s militia firing from the cemetery onto the area of the mosque to try to provoke outrage so they can blame it on coalition forces.”

The city’s vast cemetery is adjacent to the shrine and militiamen have been known to use it as launching pad for attacks on US troops.

Kimmitt said US troops “will not be provoked into an incident near those shrines.”

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite member of the US-appointed Governing Council, said “occupation forces bear a special responsibility to calm the situation and respect the sanctity of Najaf’s holy shrine.”

A spokesman for Sadr said it was US troops that fired an Iraqi-made mortar on the shrine.

“As you know US forces put their hands on weapons that belonged to the former Iraqi army, so it could have been a mortar from this arsenal that was fired at the shrine,” said Sheikh Qais al-Khazali

Since early April the Imam Ali mausoleum and the area immediately around it have been under the control of Sadr and his men.

The golden dome of the shrine was slightly damaged in fighting almost two weeks ago.

For more than a month, Najaf has been the scene of almost daily clashes between US troops and militiamen loyal to Sadr.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation