United States Deplores Second Attack on Samarra Mosque

By David McKeeby
USINFO White House Correspondent

Washington - The United States deplores the latest attack on the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra and pledges "aggressive outreach" to help the Iraqi government prevent renewed outbreaks of sectarian violence, White House spokesman Tony Snow said June 13.

"It is clear that somebody is trying once again to use this holy site as a venue for trying to literally blow up Iraqi democracy," Snow told White House reporters.

Investigations are ongoing, but Snow said the bombings appear to be the work of al-Qaida, perpetrators of the February 2006 bombing of the mosque, regarded as one of Shia Islam's holiest sites. The 2006 bombing led to a wave of kidnappings and murders that exacerbated tensions between Iraq's Sunni and Shia communities and complicated efforts at political reconciliation by Iraq's democratically elected government.  (See related article.)

The June 13 bombing destroyed the two minarets of the revered shrine, prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to impose a curfew on vehicle traffic and large gatherings in the capital, Baghdad.  Iraq's top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, appealed for calm, but media reports indicate that three Sunni mosques and another Shia mosque have been damaged since the al-Askari attack.

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack described the attack on al-Askari as “a cruel, cynical act” that underscores the nature of the enemy that Iraqis and coalition troops are fighting. He added that the United States is “standing with the Iraqi government.”

A joint statement issued by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and coalition commander General David Petraeus condemned the attack as "a deliberate attempt by al-Qaeda to sow dissent and inflame sectarian strife among the people of Iraq.” Crocker and Petraeus called the attack "an act of desperation by an increasingly beleaguered enemy seeking to obstruct the peaceful political and economic development of a democratic Iraq."

"We share in the outrage of the Iraqi people against this crime, and we call on all Iraqis to reject this call to violence," Crocker and Petraeus said.  "We can not allow these terrorists to work against the interests of the Iraqi people who are seeking peace and prosperity for all."

The United States, Snow said, learned the lessons from the first attack in 2006 and would work with Iraqi security forces, elected officials and community leaders to help prevent Iraqis from responding to the bombing with new attacks.

“In this case, I think people are acutely aware of what the dangers may be, and therefore are moving swiftly to address it as rapidly as possible,” Snow said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined Snow in calling for unity in the aftermath of the attack.

“It is a time when the Iraqi people need to draw together against their common enemy because this common enemy is trying to tear the Iraqi people apart,” she said.

"This is clearly an act of provocation that is designed to try to enflame passion within Iraq that ultimately will lead to the deaths of innocent Iraqis," Snow said.

For more information, see Iraq Update.