( AP ) - An explosion leveled a Sunni mosque Saturday in Basra, police and witnesses said, the second such attack in as many days in apparent retaliation for the toppling of minarets at a prized Shiite shrine in Samarra.
Bombers loaded into pickup trucks pulled up to the al-Ashrah al-Mubashra mosque in Basra's al-Hakimiya district at dawn, residents in nearby houses said. Minutes after they left, a huge explosion tore through the building, leveling it completely.
It was unclear whether there were any guards present at the time, and why Iraqi security forces were unable to intervene. Witnesses said they saw no sign of police responding.
As they were leaving, the insurgents wrote graffiti on the mosque complex's outer wall with the names of revered Shiite saints, witnesses said. They also hoisted a green Shiite flag over a crumbling part of the mosque complex, they said.
Some nearby houses were damaged in the blast, but no injuries were reported.
Basra is Iraq's second-largest city, located 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.
On Friday, police said bombers posing as television cameramen destroyed another important Sunni mosque near Basra, the Talha Bin al-Zubair shrine. Afterward, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an indefinite curfew in Basra, which remained in effect Saturday.
Suspected al-Qaida bombers on Wednesday used explosives to bring down the two minarets of the Askariya Shiite shrine in Samarra, 50 miles north of the capital. The provocative attack stoked fears of revenge attacks by Shiite militants.
In February 2006, insurgents linked to al-Qaida blew up the same shrine's glistening golden dome. That attack set in motion the sectarian slaughter that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis.