( UN ) - The senior United Nations envoy to Iraq today strongly condemned the attack against holy Shi'a shrines in Samarra, where a blast last February triggered a wave of deadly sectarian violence.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, "condemned in the strongest terms possible the sacrilegious attack on the holy Shrines of Imam Ali Al-Hadi and Imam Hassan Al-Askari in Samarra."
In a statement calling the attack "atrocious," he said it was a "horrendous, sinister and unspeakable crime whose perpetrators once again intended to inflame sectarian passions, destroy efforts aimed at national
reconciliation and undermine any prospect of peace and stability in Iraq."
Urging Iraqis to exercise maximum restraint and recalling May's "horrible attack on the Shrine of Abdul-Qader Al-Gilani Mosque in Baghdad," a revered Sunni site, Mr. Qazi reaffirmed the UN's condemnation of the targeting of all places of worship.
He called on all Iraqis to "close ranks more than ever before and demonstrate unity and resolve in the face of this menace that threatens Iraq national fabric." Doing so, he said, "will deny those behind such horrific
acts the opportunity to undermine the ongoing efforts to consolidate peace
and security in the country."
Mr. Qazi also called on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 730,000 Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes since the al-Askari shrine in Samarra was bombed last February.