Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr calls for mourning

Muqtada al-Sadr, anti-American cleric and activist, called for a three-day mourning period to mark the destruction Wednesday of the minarets of the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra.

In a statement issued in the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad, al-Sadr also called for peaceful demonstrations following the blasts, a repeat of a February 2006 bombing that destroyed the shrine's golden dome. Both attacks were blamed on suspected Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaida.

Al-Mahdi's Mahdi Army militia has been blamed for much of the sectarian violence that targeted Sunni Arabs, sweeping Baghdad and other parts of Iraq following the 2006 bombing, but he appeared to take a conciliatory tone in the statement, saying that no Sunni Arab could have been responsible for Wednesday's bombing.

"We declare a three-day mourning period...and shout Allahu Akbar (God is greater) from Sunni and Shiite mosques," said al-sadr, who lives in Najaf.