Police and military sources in Iraq tallied more than 130 deaths, mostly of Sunnis, around the two biggest cities Baghdad and Basra in the 24 hours since the bloodless but highly symbolic bombing of the Shi'ite Golden Mosque in Samarra. Dozens of Sunni mosques have been attacked and several burned to the ground.
In the bloodiest incident, officials said 47 people who had taken part in a joint Sunni and Shi'ite demonstration against the Samarra bombing were hauled from vehicles after they left and shot dead on the outskirts of the capital. The identities of the gunmen and the victims was not clear.
The Interior Ministry said all police and army leave was canceled, curfews were extended as the country locks down for three days of national mourning. Universities postponed Saturday's start of the spring semester by nearly three weeks.
A bomb blasted an Iraqi army foot patrol in a market in the religiously divided city of Baquba, killing 16 people.
Three journalists working for Al Arabiya television were found shot dead after being attacked while filming in Samarra.
The Iraqi Accordance Front, which won most of the minority Sunni vote in December's parliamentary election, said it would need an apology from the ruling Shi'ites before it would consider rejoining talks on a national unity coalition.
Raed, an Iraqi weblogger, says:
"Today’s attack on Al-Askari Shrine is a tragic milestone in the history of Iraq under the occupation. It’s a sad day for all Iraqis, Muslims and non Muslims, Arabs and non Arabs.
Iraqis are very very angry now. This attack was followed by more condemned small attacks against some 89 mosques around the country in a manifestation of the sectarian tension growing under the US led occupation, but all of these attacks were condemned and stopped.
When the Iraqi volcano erupts, it won't burn Iraqis. Unlike what the bush administration is trying to promote and claim, Iraqis never had a civil war, and they’ll never have one unless the occupation troops stay in Iraq. The US troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible so that Iraqis would have the time and space to heal their wounds and deal with their internal issues. The US army shouldn't be left in Iraq to face the ire of millions of Iraqis.
Today’s attack was yet another disaster that will be contained and dealt with by all the different Iraqi religious and social leaders. I hope this incident will not cause any further vioence against anyone, and I hope it'll prove to the world that Iraqis are capable of handling the most tragic crisis without turning against each other. The only help anyone outside Iraq can offer in the meantime is to ask the occupation troops to give Iraq back to Iraqis, or at least stop killing them in the occupation prisons."
Raed used to be more moderate in his opinions, but he doesn't seem to pull many punches nowadays. That said, I hope he's right that the Iraqi leaders can put a lid on this violence, because things are looking pretty ugly from over here...