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Iraq shrine bombing was specialist job: minister

By Agence France Presse

02/25/06 "AFP" -- -- The bombing of a revered Shiite shrine which sparked a wave of violence in Iraq was the work of specialists, Construction Minister Jassem Mohammed Jaafar said Friday, adding that the placing of the explosives must have taken at least 12 hours.

"According to initial reports, the bombing was technically well conceived and could only have been carried out by specialists," the minister told Iraqia state television.

Jaafar, who toured the devastated thousand-year-old shrine on Thursday a day after the bombing which brought down its golden dome, said "holes were dug into the mausoleum's four main pillars and packed with explosives."

"Then the charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance," the minister added.

To drill into the pillars would have taken at least four hours per pillar, he also estimated.

Damage to the mausoleum, holding the tombs of the 10th and 11th Shiite Imams, was extensive.

"The dome was completely wrecked and collapsed on the tombs which were covered over by debris. The shrine's foundations were also affected as 40 percent of the power of the blast was directed inwards," he added.

"It's a historic site, a symbol of Iraqi culture and must be treated as such," he said, adding that he would call on Iraqi officials and on UNESCO to help rebuilt the golden mosque.

Jaafar said he survived a double bomb attack while returning from Samarra when blasts went off in front of his convoy and behind it.

Copyright 2006 Agence France Presse

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