Iraq Sunni clerics blame Shi'ites, US for violence
BAGHDAD, March 1: Iraq's main Sunni Muslim religious organisation, accusing the Shi'ite-led government and US forces of involvement in attacks by Shi'ite militiamen, called today on the community to protect its mosques.
''Our brothers in all areas must protect their mosques as the government has failed to do so,'' Abdul Salam al-Qubaisi, spokesman for the Muslim Clerics Association, told a news conference broadcast live on Al-Jazeera television.
Since a bomb blamed on al Qaeda demolished the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest sites in Shi'ite Islam, sectarian violence has killed more than 400 people by government reckoning, pitching Iraq toward civil war.
Qubaisi angrily listed alleged attacks on Sunnis across Iraq and accused Shi'ite police of attacking the Baghdad home of the group's head, Harith al-Dari, on Saturday, wounding some of Dari's nieces.
Qubaisi showed a group of children with bandages on their legs and arms and lying on beds. He said they had been wounded in the attack.
He said Shi'ite police had showed up at Dari's house to arrest him and that when the guards opposed them a shootout erupted.
He also said reports of Shi'ite families fleeing homes in the violent Baghdad Sunni suburb of Abu Ghraib were exaggerated.
The Samarra bombing, although bloodless, has stalled efforts by Iraq's divided political leaders to forge a government of national unity that Washington sees as the best hope to stabilise the country and allow it to bring home US troops.