Groups of armed men attacked eight Sunni Muslim mosques in Baghdad on Wednesday as sectarian tension ran high between Shiite and Sunni Muslims after the bombing of a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua.
"Gunmen attacked the Hamza Sunni mosque in the Ghazaliyah district in western Baghdad before noon, setting the building ablaze," The source said on condition of anonymity.
Another mosque in the al-Elam district in southern Baghdad was also attacked by groups of angry armed men, who attacked six other Sunni mosques in different parts of the capital, causing damage, the source said.
The attacks caused no casualties as the mosques were empty at the time, he added.
Tens of thousands of the Shiites took to the streets in Baghdad, Samarra, Najaf and Karbala and other Iraqi cities, waving green flags and Iraq's national flag and vowing to avenge those responsible for the attack at one of the most celebrated Shiite shrine.
U.S. and Iraqi forces cordoned off Samarra city, some 120 km north of Baghdad, preventing people from entering or leaving the troubled city.
Angry protestors rocked local police, accusing them of collaboration with the attackers on the shrine, a source from Salahudin provincial police said.
Iraqi security forces were urgently deployed near mosques and districts shared by Shiite and Sunni Muslims to prevent conflicts between the two sects, the Interior Ministry source said.
Earlier Wednesday, the holy shrine of Ali al-Hadi in Samarra was attacked with its golden dome badly damaged.
The shrine of Ali al-Hadi, or the al-Hadhrah al-Askariyah, contains two tombs of Ali al-Hadi, who died in 868 A.D., and his son Hassan al-Askari who died in 874 A.D.. The two are the 10th and 11th of the Shiite's twelve most revered Imams. Shiite pilgrims visited the shrine from all over the world.