(photo from the BBC.)
From the NYT:
"One of Iraq’s most sacred Shiite shrines, the Imam al-Askari mosque in Samarra, was attacked and severely damaged again today, just over a year after a previous attack on the site unleashed a tide of sectarian bloodletting across the country.
Following the attack, which destroyed the mosque’s two minarets, the Iraqi government announced a curfew in Baghdad starting at 3 p.m. local time today. Shiite leaders called for calm. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq, condemned the bombing, but appealed to Iraqis to show restraint.
It was unclear who carried out the attack in the predominantly Sunni town about 60 miles north of Baghdad. Iraqi security forces secured the area around the mosque and were investigating the cause of the explosion, the American military said. Iraqi police reported hearing two nearly simultaneous explosions coming from inside the mosque compound at around 9 a.m. today."
"Authorities have evidence that Wednesday's bombing of Al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra was an inside job, and 15 members of the Iraqi security forces have been arrested, a U.S. military official said. (...)
The U.S. military official, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, told CNN's Karl Penhaul that he believes members of the Iraqi security forces who were guarding the site either assisted or directly took part in helping al Qaeda insurgents place and detonate explosives at the mosque's prayer summoning towers, which are called minarets. "
"I don't expect that the impact will be as great this time. When the mosque was hit the first time, it turned a simmering low-grade 'cold' ethnic war into a hot one. There was a palpable sense of crossing a rubicon, of not being able to go back, due not only to the religious senstitivity but also to the sense of a line being crossed. Communal leaders who had previously been exercising some degree of restraint now unleashed the hounds. The context now is entirely different - those dogs have long since been on rampage, and the feel now is one of another atrocity among many. If anything, it demonstrates the inability of the government and the United States to provide security even when such an attack was both expected and feared. That makes it a blow to Maliki and the US, but not the same kind of galvanizing event that the first attack became."
However it turns out, it's a tragedy.