By Donna Miles, American Forces Press ServiceJune 14, 2007
WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, June 14, 2007) - A senior U.S. military official in Iraq joined Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday in urging calm in the wake of an attack yesterday on the Golden Mosque compound in Samarra, Iraq.
Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said the coalition joins al-Maliki in urging the Iraqis to remain calm and allow legitimate Iraqi security forces to make "appropriate response."
U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, MNFI commander, met this afternoon with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss possible responses, Brig. Gen. Bergner reported via a Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System broadcast from Baghdad.
They agreed to "a number of military and political actions to promote security and restraint in the wake of this inflammatory attack," he said.
"This will be a cooperative endeavor as we go forward and assist the government of Iraq," he said.
Brig. Gen. Bergner condemned the attack, which destroyed two minarets at the mosque compound, as "an affront to the values and dignity of people from all religions."
He called the attack Brig. Gen. Bergner called the attack "a deplorable attempt by terrorists to divide and destroy the confidence of the Iraqi people."
"It is further proof of the enemy's indiscriminate violence and the depths to which they will go to incite hatred," he said.
Brig. Gen. Bergner's comments echoed those expressed by Ambassador Crocker and Gen. Petraeus in a joint statement released earlier today.
"This brutal action on one of Iraq's holiest shrines is a deliberate attempt by al Qaeda to sow dissent and inflame sectarian strife among the people of Iraq," Ambassador Crocker and Gen. Petraeus said. "It is an act of desperation by an increasingly beleaguered enemy seeking to obstruct the peaceful political and economic development of a democratic Iraq."
The leaders said they share in the outrage of the Iraqi people about this crime, and they called on all Iraqis to reject the call to violence. "We cannot allow these terrorists to work against the interests of the Iraqi people who are seeking peace and prosperity for all," they said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed similar sentiment during a media roundtable today at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
"It would appear to be yet another effort by al Qaeda to try to prevent political reconciliation in Iraq, to try and stoke sectarian violence," he told reporters traveling with him.
Secretary Gates said he hopes the Iraqi people realize the attack was a transparent effort by the terrorist group to incite the sects and force more division between Sunni and Shiia Muslims. He also expressed hope the Iraqi people will realize this and refrain from violence.
A February 2006 al Qaeda attack on the mosque, one of the holiest Shiite shrines in Iraq, ignited widespread sectarian violence.
(Jim Garamone and Sgt. Sara Wood all contributed to this report.)