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Iraq Transition

Curfew extended to stem revenge attacks

Shiite leaders urge end to violence in wake of mosque bombing

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Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim was among the Shiite leaders appealing for calm Friday.

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BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi authorities announced another daytime curfew Saturday for Baghdad and its neighboring provinces, just as mortars struck near a shrine sacred to both Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

The curfew bars vehicles, not pedestrians, and will last until 4 p.m. in the capital, Babil, Diyala and Salaheddin, home of the al-Askariya "Golden Mosque" that was bombed Wednesday.

The rest of the nation will observe an overnight curfew ending at 6 a.m., emergency police said.

The attack on the Golden Mosque, considered one of the holiest of Shiite sites, has triggered Shiite reprisals across Iraq, including the killings of Sunnis, attacks on their mosques and institutions, and mass protests. At least 132 people have been killed; 87 bodies have been found in Baghdad alone.

The bodies of another 26 men were found across Baghdad on Friday, police said. It was not clear if the bodies were related to the ongoing violence or if they were included among the 87 bodies that have been found in Baghdad thus far. (Militias on the march -- 1:43)

Friday night, two mortars struck near the tomb of Salman al-Farris, a shrine sacred to both Sunnis and Shiites, southeast of the capital, emergency police in Baghdad said.

No casualties were reported. The Sunni Endowment administers the mausoleum of al-Farris, who is considered to have been the first Persian to convert to Islam and a close companion of the Prophet Mohammed.

In addition to the shrine, two Sunni mosques were attacked late Friday in southwest Baghdad by a "large number of men" wielding a variety of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, said emergency police in the capital.

There were no casualties reported, but one mosque was heavily damaged, police said.

Thursday, the Mehdi Army militia, followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, moved into Salman Pak, home to the shrine and to several Sunni militias, emergency police said.

They surrounded the main Sunni mosque Friday, preventing worshippers from attending Friday prayers.

In Samarra, the largely Sunni town where the Golden Mosque is located, the militia has reportedly been going door-to-door asking for heads of households and taking part in protests calling for revenge.

Shiite leaders urge Iraqi unity

Meanwhile, a top Shiite political figure and the top Shiite cleric in Iraq are among those trying to calm sectarian hostilities before they degenerate into a full-blown civil war.

Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), called the bombing of the Golden Mosque a strike against all Iraqis.

Al-Hakim blamed not Iraqi Sunnis, but "takfiris," or extremists, who don't represent Islam, and he cited people such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq.

And, he said, Iraqis must unite to fight them. (A country struggling to stay together -- 2:38)

Al-Hakim's remarks, issued in a statement read Friday on Iraqi TV, echoed those by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who asked Shiite "believers to peacefully express their sorrow and peacefully denounce and condemn this act."

Al-Sistani exhorted people not to resort to "acts that will benefit those who are trying to agitate sectarian violence. Our enemies who have entered Iraq have been trying to do this for a long time."

His comments sparked indirect and unusually strong criticism from a group of Sunni clerics angry over the revenge attacks.

"We point the finger of blame at certain Shiite religious authorities calling for demonstrations, while they know Iraq cannot control the streets," Sheik Abdul Salam al-Qubaisi said.

The Shiite-Sunni violence has taken a toll on the political front. The top Sunni political coalition, the Iraqi Accord Front, has suspended government-formation talks with the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance, but not with Kurds or other Sunnis, said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.

But he said progress was being made, calling the role of clerics in keeping peace "very important." He added that the clerics' promotion of "cross-sectarian cooperation and brotherhood" came at the behest of the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite.

U.S. reaction

In Washington on Friday, President Bush reiterated appeals for unity and restraint, calling the attack on the Golden Mosque "an affront to people of faith around the world."

"The U.S. strongly condemns this cowardly act of terror and the subsequent attacks on other mosques and holy sites around Iraq," he said. (Read what he said)

Returning home from a four-day Middle East tour Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that sectarian violence in Iraq has hurt the formation of a national unity government and that foreign terrorists might try to stoke clashes throughout the region.

"I think it's not surprising that people who don't want the political process to go forward are going to try and find some way in the 11th hour to set Iraqis against themselves," she said.

Rice said she didn't have enough information to say who was behind the Golden Mosque bombing but suggested foreign terrorists, such as al-Zarqawi's network, launched the attack in a bid to provoke a civil war.

"It's rarely been Iraqis that talk about civil war," she said. "It's usually been outside foreign forces that have talked about civil war, like the al Qaeda forces who are operating there."

Protests, joint prayer services

While an eerie quiet pervaded much of Baghdad during the curfew, people in Baghdad's Sadr City, a largely Shiite area, ignored the strictures and staged protests.

In Basra, the overwhelmingly Shiite city in the south, thousands of people responded to a call by religious leaders for joint Shiite-Sunni prayer services Friday.

"We Sunnis and Shiites Muslims have been living together in Iraq for thousands of years. We condemn such criminal acts through which they want to divide Iraqis," said Hakim al-Mayahi, a member of Basra's provincial council.

A similar scene played out in Kut, also in the south, where tens of thousands of Sunnis and Shiites joined together Thursday, carrying the Iraqi flag and finding a common foe: They chanted "No to America!"

Other developments

  • Coalition forces and Iraqi police conducted a raid in the capital Friday, killing Abu Asma, whom they described as the al Qaeda military emir of northern Baghdad. The man, an explosives expert, had suicide vests and was responsible for "many deaths and injuries" of security forces, the military said in a written statement.
  • CNN's Ingrid Formanek, Elise Labott, Terence Burke, Arwa Damon, Aneesh Raman, Barbara Starr and David Ensor contributed to this report.

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