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Al-Qaeda suspected in Iraq mosque bombing: US

The bombing in Iraq destroyed the dome of one of the world's holiest Shi'ite shrines.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 09:31 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

The United States suspects that Al-Qaeda was behind the bombing in Iraq that destroyed the dome of one of the world's holiest Shiite shrines, a senior US official said.

"We believe this can be traced back to the Al-Qaeda movement," James Jeffrey, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq, said on Wednesday of the blast that sparked a wave of reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques in Baghdad.

Jeffrey said the Americans had no definite proof against Al-Qaeda but had concluded the bombing of the Shiite mosque in the northern town of Samarra fit a pattern of the movement's past threats and actions.

"They would be the first target (for suspicion) you would look at and frankly there aren't too many other obvious ones," Jeffrey told a small group of reporters at the State Department.

He dismissed suggestions that Iran might be involved, saying, "I think we should focus on Al-Qaeda at this point. There are plenty of reasons to focus on Iran on other issues."

Foreign Islamic fighters, including Al-Qaeda members led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, represent a small element of the insurgency battling to chase some 1,50,000 US troops from Iraq. But they have drawn most US attention.

Jeffrey said if nobody claimed responsibility for the bombing, it might be because Zarqawi had been criticised by Al-Qaeda's top leadership for spilling too much Iraqi blood.

"Recently no-one is claiming credit for these attacks on the Shia. We suspect that that's a tactical ploy to avoid further criticism emanating from the Al-Qaeda central," Jeffrey said.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 09:10 IST