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Shi'ite Leader Calls For Restraint As Death Toll Nears 130 --> Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (file photo) (epa) 24 February 2006 -- A senior Iraqi Shi'ite leader, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, has called for Sunni-Shi'ite unity and urged restraint in the wake of the bombing of one of the holiest Shi'ite shrines on 22 February.

The bombing of the Golden Mosque sparked a wave of sectarian violence that has so far claimed the lives of nearly 130 people across Iraq.

Al-Hakim, who heads the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, blamed Saddam Hussein loyalists and Al-Qaeda followers for the bombing.

A daytime curfew in Baghdad announced by Iraq's government is largely being observed with streets in the capital reportedly largely empty.

However, in Baghdad's predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood of Al-Sadr City, unidentified gunmen clashed with militiamen loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It was not immediately clear whether anyone was killed.

(compiled from agency reports)

Reactions To The Samarra Attack
Demonstrators in Baghdad on February 23 (epa)

Iraqi religious and government leaders, as well as international officials, condemned the February 22 bomb attack that wrecked the Golden Mosque, a major Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Samarra. Below is a selection of statements on the incident.

"This new ugly crime comes as a warning that there is a conspiracy against the Iraqi people to spark a war among brothers. God willing, we will not allow this.... We must cooperate and work together against this danger, the danger of civil war. This is the fiercest danger because it threatens our unity and our country with a devastating civil war." -- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani

"The timing of this crime indicates that one of its aims is to stall the political process and to hamper the negotiations on the formation of a national-unity government." -- President Talabani

"I announce on this occasion three days of mourning. I hope our heroic people will take more care on this occasion to bolster Islamic unity and protect Islamic brotherhood and Iraqi national brotherhood." -- Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari

"Oh honorable people of Samarra! We should stand as one, united in confronting terrorism.... This assault is an assault on all Muslims." -- Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabur

"They will fail to draw the Iraqi people into civil war as they have failed in the past." -- Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i

"If the security systems are unable to secure necessary protection, the believers are able to do so with the might of God." -- Shi'ite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

"We will not only condemn and protest but we will act against those militants. If the Iraqi government does not do its job to defend the Iraqi people we are ready to do so." -- Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, speaking through spokesman Abdel Hadi al-Darajee

(compiled by Reuters)

For more reactions, click here and here.

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