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Bombs destroy two Shi'ite Muslim shrines in Iraq

Written by: Staff

Baquba (Iraq), May 14: Bombs destroyed two small Shi'ite Muslim shrines in a rural area about 60 km northeast of Baghdad, police today said, in what appeared to be the latest acts of sectarian violence in Iraq.

No one was hurt in yesterday's attacks on the Abdullah bin Ali shrine in the village of Wajihiya or the Tamim shrine in the nearby countryside.

''The Abdullah bin Ali shrine is completely destroyed,'' said a police officer in the regional capital Baquba, declining to be named.

Residents in Wajihiya, 30 hm east of Baquba, voiced anger at the attacks and said the shrines were also used as places of prayer by some Sunni Muslims in the area, a common practice in Iraq.

Several small shrines, marking tombs of respected clerics and local spiritual leaders mainly from the Shi'ite branch of Islam, were attacked after the destruction of the large Golden Mosque, or Askari shrine, in Samarra on February 22.

Widely blamed on al Qaeda's Sunni Islamist guerrillas -- though they have denied it -- the Samarra bombing provoked reprisal attacks by Shi'ites and a wave of sectarian bloodshed that has pitched Iraq toward civil war.

Shi'ites, repressed under Saddam Hussein, are the majority community in the country and now hold sway. The Sunnis were dominant in Saddam's era.

Diyala province, stretching from Baghdad to the Iranian border, has been the scene of much violence in recent months.

Its mixed population offers targets for gunmen and bombers from all Iraq's ethnic and sectarian factions.

Yesterday's attacks occurred as Shi'ite Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki was trying to put together a national unity government that can avert a slide into all-out sectarian conflict.

Five months after national elections, he has another week to present a cabinet to parliament under a constitutional deadline set when he was appointed in April.


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