Boys killed in school blast

A roadside bomb exploded near a primary school in a predominantly-Shiite area in southern Iraq today, killing two boys and injuring four others.

The incident happened at about 7.45am local time in the Bashrogiya area near Kut, about 100 miles south east of Baghdad, police Lt Othman al-Rawi said.

Meanwhile a large explosion shook the city of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, early today, damaging the golden dome of one of the country’s most famous Shiite religious shrines, police and witnesses said. There were no reports of casualties.

The blast occurred about 6.55am at the Askariya Shrine, which contains the tombs of two revered Shiite imams, police Capt Laith Mohammed said. It was the third major attack on a Shiite target in as many days after two deadly attacks in Shiite parts of Baghdad.

US and Iraqi forces surrounded the shrine, famous for its golden dome, and began searching houses in the area. Residents and police said damage to the dome was extensive.

Religious leaders at other mosques and shrines throughout the city denounced the attack in statements read over loudspeakers from minarets.

The shrine contains the tombs of the 10th and 11th imams, Ali al-Hadi who died in 868 AD and his son Hassan al-Askari who died in 874 AD and is visited by Shiite pilgrims from throughout the Muslim world. They were descendants of the Prophet Mohammad.

Imam Hassan was the father of Imam Mohammed al-Mahdi, the “hidden imam” who Shiites believe is still alive and will return some day to restore justice to the world.

There have been a series of attacks in heavily Shiite areas in recent days, raising fears of an escalation in sectarian violence.

At least 22 people were killed when a car bomb exploded in a street packed with shoppers in a Shiite section of Baghdad’s Dora neighbourhood yesterday, and 12 people died on Monday when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt on a bus in the capital’s Kazimiyah district.

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