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US Military Rejects Civil War Fears
Agence France-Presse  |  February 23, 2006
The US military on Thursday rejected the idea that a civil war is brewing in Iraq, saying it had confirmed only seven major attacks on mosques across the country.

Major General Rick Lynch, spokesman for the coalition forces in Iraq, said the military had recorded attacks on seven Sunni mosques since the bombing of the revered Shiite shrine in Samarra on Wednesday.

"As of now seven attacks on mosques across Iraq have taken place that resulted in damage to mosques. Two Sunni imams (prayer leaders) and one Sunni sheikh were murdered," Lynch told reporters, playing down the sectarian strife.

"Some drive-by shootings against mosques have been reported ... that's where we are. So we are not seeing civil war igniting in Iraq. We are not seeing 77, 80, 100 mosques damaged in Iraq. We are not seeing death on the streets."

More than 80 bodies of people who had been shot dead were brought to Baghdad's morgue between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, according to its deputy director.

In addition, 47 workers from a brick factory were murdered Thursday on the outskirts of the capital, police said.

Iraqi security officials and Sunni leaders said around 30 Sunni mosques were attacked Wednesday following the bombing of the 1,000-year-old Imam Ali al-Hadi mausoleum, a revered Shiite shrine, in the northern town of Samarra.

Lynch said a total of 20 peaceful demonstrations had taken place across Iraq over the past 36 hours, but admitted "there were some demonstrations that were violent."

"We are seeing a confident Iraqi government using capable security forces to calm the storm that was inflammated by a horrendous terrorist attack yesterday against the golden mosque," Lynch added.

He confirmed that all Iraqi security forces were on alert, and "everybody who was on leave has been called back". An overnight curfew has also been extended in Baghdad and Samarra, he said.

Lynch said US forces had not expected an attack against the Samarra shrine.

He suggested that the bombing resulted from a growing rift between local people in Samarra and "foreign fighters" who had decided to strike at a symbol of the city.

"What we saw in Samarra was an indication of what is happening with the terrorists and foreign fighters," he said.

The bombing, he suggested, bore "a signature of (Abu Musab al-) Zarqawi and terrorists and foreign fighters," he said in reference to the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

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