BAGHDAD, Jan 4 – At least two Sunni Muslim mosques have been attacked in Iraq in apparent retaliation for the execution of a senior Shi’ite cleric in Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, officials and police said on Monday.
The interior ministry in Baghdad confirmed the attacks late Sunday in Hilla, around 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad. It didn’t confirm reports that at least one person was killed.
Iraq has faced sectarian bloodletting for years, mainly between the Sunni minority and Shi’ite majority that was empowered after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the provincial authorities “to chase the criminal gangs” who attacked the mosques. He blamed the attacks on “Daesh and those who are similar to them,” according to a statement that refers to Islamic State by one of its Arabic acronyms.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia executed prominent cleric Nimr al-Nimr, triggering angry reactions in Shi’ite ruled Iraq and Iran. The government in Riyadh cut ties on Sunday with Tehran after protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic representations in Iran.
The attack on the Ammar bin Yasir mosque in the northern outskirts of Hilla destroyed its dome and several walls, according to a Reuters TV cameraman who visited the site.
The second attack on the al-Fath al-Mubeen mosque in central Hilla was reported by a provincial council member and a police source who said a guard inside the building was killed.