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Match in the powderkeg?

One of the Shi'ites' holiest sites bombed in Iraq.
 
 
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This could be the tipping point in Iraq's simmering, low-intensity civil war:

One of the most revered shrines in Shiite Islam was bombed early Wednesday morning north of Baghdad, causing the collapse of its dome, police and eyewitnesses said. There was no immediate estimate of casualties in the latest in a series of sectarian attacks in the country.

The attack on the Askariya shrine, also known as the Golden Mosque, in the city of Samarra sparked immediate and widespread protests among Shiites across Iraq and reports of reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques. The blast appeared designed to further inflame sectarian tension between Iraq's Shiite majority and the Sunni Arab population from whose ranks the bulk of the country's insurgency is drawn.

"The main aim of these terrorist groups is to drag Iraq into a civil war," said Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, in an interview on al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based Arabic news channel.

Thousands of Shiite militia fighters -- many armed with pistols, automatic rifles and grenade launchers -- took to the streets of cities across Iraq after the bombing, even as Shiite political and religious leaders called for peaceful demonstrations and restraint.

Here's more about the mosque's history.

Stay tuned.

Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer .