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Mon 4 Jan 2016 03:00 PM

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Iraqi mosques attacked in apparent retaliation for Saudi execution

Police say at least two Sunni mosques are attacked but reports of fatalities are not confirmed

Iraqi mosques attacked in apparent retaliation for Saudi execution
Iranian and Turkish demonstrators hold pictures of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr as they protest outside the Saudi Embassy in Ankara. (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

At least two Sunni Muslim mosques have been attacked in Iraq in apparent retaliation for the execution of a senior Shi'ite cleric in Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, officials and police said on Monday.

The interior ministry in Baghdad confirmed the attacks late Sunday in Hilla, around 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad. It didn't confirm reports that at least one person was killed.

Iraq has faced sectarian bloodletting for years, mainly between the Sunni minority and Shi'ite majority that was empowered after the US-led invasion in 2003.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the provincial authorities "to chase the criminal gangs'' who attacked the mosques. He blamed the attacks on "Daesh and those who are similar to them,'' according to a statement that refers to ISIL by one of its Arabic acronyms.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia executed prominent cleric Nimr Al Nimr, triggering angry reactions in Shi'ite ruled Iraq and Iran. The government in Riyadh cut ties on Sunday with Tehran after protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic representations in Iran.

The attack on the Ammar bin Yasir mosque in central Hilla destroyed its dome and several walls, according to a Reuters TV cameraman who visited the site. A provincial council member and a police source said a guard inside the building had been killed.

Another mosque in Hilla's northern outskirts,  Al Fath Al Mubeen, was also attacked, the council member and police source said.

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