Iran condemns bombing of Samarra shrine minarets

No casualties reported; Ahmadinejad blames US 'occupiers' for failing to provide security; authorities blame al-Qaida insurgents for attack.

dome shiite 298 blast  (photo credit: )
dome shiite 298 blast
(photo credit: )
The destruction Wednesday in Iraq of the Askariya shrine's two minarets drew angry condemnation from Iran, where officials accused US troops of failing to provide enough security at the famous Shi'ite dome, already bombed in 2006. Last year's attack unleashed a wave of retaliatory sectarian violence that has convulsed Iraq since and claimed thousands of lives. No casualties were reported in Wednesday's 9 a.m. blast, which authorities blamed on suspected al-Qaida insurgents, but fears rose of new Sunni-Shi'ite bloodshed. Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was angry at the US-led forces in Iraq over the explosion. Typically, Iranian leaders blame the United States for any shortcomings in Iraq as they believe the "occupiers" - Iranian shorthand for Americans in Iraq - should solve any and all problems there. "We were informed that they have attacked our holy shrines in Samarra," Ahmadinejad told a crowd of supporters in the town of Shahroud, some 500 kilometers east of Tehran. Ahmadinejad referred to the Samarra shrine as "ours" because of its Shi'ite denomination. Iran is a predominantly Shi'ite nation and more than 2,000 Iranian pilgrims visit Shi'ite holy shrines in Iraq every day. "You, by enabling these activities, will be cornered," Ahmadinejad said, referring to US troops in Iraq. Although he did not clarify how US could enable attacks such as Wednesday's, he likely mean the shrine was inadequately guarded. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, also condemned the blast and said the "occupier forces" were responsible "for arranging better security measures" after last year's Samarra attack. "This is being done by those who are real enemies of the Iraqi nation and government. We do condemn this hostile act," Hosseini told the state television over the phone. "They are trying to undermine unity and integrity in Iraq and extend ethnical differences." After last year's bombing, the Samarra mosque was guarded by about 60 Federal Protection Service forces and 25 local Iraqi police who kept watch on the perimeter, according to Samarra city officials.