The Samarra site contains the tombs of the 10th and 11th imams – Ali al-Hadi, who died in 868, and his son Hassan al-Askari, who died in 874. Both are descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, and Shiites consider them to be among his successors.
The shrine also is near the place where the 12th imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi, disappeared. Al-Mahdi, known as the “hidden imam,” was the son and grandson of the two imams buried in the Askariya shrine. Shiites believe he will return to restore justice to humanity.
Also Thursday, the U.S. military said it detained 25 suspects in raids against al-Qaeda in Iraq in the past two days. One taken into custody near Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, was believed to be a close associate of Omar al-Baghdadi, who heads the al-Qaeda front group Islamic State in Iraq.Read More
Attacks on Sunni mosques began within hours of Wednesday's bombings in Samarra.
Police in the southern city of Basra said four people were killed and six wounded in attacks on the Kawaz, Othman, al-Abayshi and Basra Grand mosques on Wednesday, all involving rocket-propelled grenades that also damaged the buildings. Basra is Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.
Four Sunni mosques near Baghdad also were attacked or burned within several hours of the Samarra bombings, police said.
One of those mosques, which had been only partly destroyed, was a target again Thursday, police said. Around 4 a.m., attackers broke into the Hateen mosque in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, and planted bombs inside.
Flames from a huge explosion destroyed most of the building, and a woman and child in a nearby apartment were wounded, an Iskandariyah police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Gunmen also tried to storm the nearby al-Mustafa mosque, and exchanged fire with guards before Iraqi soldiers arrived and stopped them, police said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.Read More