Good Lord!

Good lord, this looks serious:

A dawn bomb attack devastated a major Shi’ite shrine in Iraq on Wednesday, sparking nationwide protests and sectarian reprisals against Sunni mosques despite appeals for calm from government and religious leaders. The attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Shi’ite Islam’s holiest sites, provoked more violence than attacks that have killed thousands but the Shi’ite-led government insisted it would not provoke civil war…..

No one was killed in the attack on the mosque in Samarra. However a Sunni cleric was killed, police said, at one of 17 Sunni mosques in Baghdad fired on by militants. One mosque was damaged by fire, though most damage appeared relatively minor.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shi’ite, declared three days of mourning and called for Muslim unity. He said the interim government had sent officials to Samarra. Residents said police sealed off the mainly Sunni city, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad; police fired over demonstrators’ heads as they chanted religious and anti-American slogans.

Armed Mehdi Army militiamen loyal to radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took up positions on streets in Baghdad and Shi’ite cities in the south, clashing in Basra and elsewhere with Sunnis; a Sadr aide said: “If the Iraqi government does not do its job to defend the Iraqi people we are ready to do so.”

Witnesses said rocket-propelled grenades damaged a Sunni mosque in Basra and there were heavy exchanges of fire after Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia attacked an Islamic Party office in the city. Thousands of people marched in Shi’ite towns across the country and through the capital, condemning the Samarra attack.