Islamists bomb Shi‘ite shrine in eastern Syria say activists

The Mosque of Ammar bin Yassir and Uweis al-Qarni, pre-war

(Reuters) – Islamist fighters from an al Qaeda splinter group bombed a large Shi‘ite Muslim shrine in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa on Wednesday, activists said.

The mosque of Ammar bin Yassir and Oweis al-Qarni was once a destination for Shi‘ite Muslim pilgrims from Iran, Lebanon and Iraq before it was taken over a year ago by Sunni rebels battling to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

One photo posted on Twitter on Wednesday under the heading “the pagan Iranian shrine” showed extensive damage to the exterior walls and roof of the site, a turquoise and white complex of domes and minarets centred around a tiled courtyard.

Photo from March, 2013, after al-Nusra draped a black flag of jihad over the mosque

Another picture showed concrete and twisted metal strewn on the street outside the mosque – built under Assad’s rule with support from Shi‘ite Iran – while another showed an interior wall that had collapsed inward.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the al Qaeda splinter group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had set off two powerful explosions at the mosque early on Wednesday.

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Unable to find photo of destruction at the moment.

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