Mortars strike near Iraq’s Al-Askari shrine



A mortar attack near a revered Muslim shrine north of Baghdad wounded three people, officials said Tuesday, as Iraq seeks to repel militants who have overrun swathes of territory.

Though the mortars did not damage the Al-Askari shrine in the predominantly-Sunni city of Samarra, which lies in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad, the attack indicates the proximity of militant groups to the holy site.

The mortars struck around 200 metres (yards) from the shrine at 11:00 pm (2000 GMT) Monday and left three people wounded, according to security and medical officials.

It has been the target of militant attacks before, with the authorities fearing that a successful strike against it could ignite a full-blown sectarian war, as was the case in February 2006 when Al-Qaeda destroyed the shrine´s golden dome.

The shrine is where Ali al-Hadi and his son Hassan al-Askari, descendents of Prophet Mohammad (SAWW) and the 10th and 11th of 12 imams, are buried, and is frequented by throngs of pilgrims from around the world.

Though they initially wilted in the face of a militant onslaught that began on June 9 and overran several key towns and cities, Iraqi forces regrouped and managed to repel an assault on Samarra.

A stalemate between the two sides has largely persisted since then near the city.