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Samarra (sämärˈrä) [key], town, N central Iraq, on the Tigris River. It is on the site of an ancient settlement and has given its name to a type of Neolithic pottery of the 5th millennium B.C. The present town was founded (836) by the Abbasid caliphs. Samarra's 17th-century Askariya mosque complex, sacred to Shiite Muslims as the burial site of the 10th and 11th imams and the site of the disappearance of the 12th ("hidden") imam, was severely damaged by terrorist bombings in 2006–7 but was subsequently rebuilt. There are notable ruins of many palaces, mosques, and other buildings, including the 9th-century great mosque with its spiral minaret. The town was the scene of fierce fighting between Sunni insurgents and U.S. occupation forces in 2004.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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