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Iraq foils attempt of 9/11-style attack on Shiite holy shrines

2010-04-15 07:26 BJT

BAGHDAD, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces recently foiled a plot by al-Qaida to use planes to attack famous Shiite holy shrines in southern Iraq, local media reported on Wednesday.

The security forces received information that al-Qaida had a plan to hijack civilian aircraft which took off from Najaf airport to attack the dome of the Imam Ali shrine, Al-Aalem newspaper reported, citing a source with the Iraqi anti-terrorism forces.

"They planned to control an Iraqi plane and change the captain for the attack" on Imam Ali's shrine or the shrines in Karbala, said the source on condition of anonymity because of the high sensitivity of the issue.

Both Najaf and Karbala, located in southern Iraq, are holy cities for Shiite Muslims.

Iraqi officials previously announced that the airport of Najaf city had been closed for "technical reasons," but failed to disclose the details.

According to Al-Sumaria television reports, a government delegation including defense minister arrived in Najaf Wednesday afternoon to discuss with local officials the closure of Najaf's international airport.

Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi later told reporters that the airport "will be reopened soon, after discussing the needed security measures."

The shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf and the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala are the most-revered holy sites for Shiite Muslims.

The al-Qaida in the past years usually attacked religious sites to spark sectarian conflicts and even civil wars in Iraq.

In 2007, insurgents blew up two minarets of the Shiite shrine of Ali al-Hadi in Samarra, some 120 km north of Baghdad, which escalated the violence between Shiites and Sunnis in the war-torn country.


Editor: Zhang Pengfei | Source: Xinhua