Police and soldiers blocked major roads and surrounded Baghdad's two main Sunni mosques as streets throughout this city of nearly 7 million emptied of people and traffic. The nation stood on the brink of civil war and the American strategy in Iraq faced its gravest test since the 2003 invasion.
However, there was more killing overnight. At least a dozen Iraqis turned up dead this morning, including six handcuffed and shot execution style. But that's a fraction of the hundred or so killed the day before, reports CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier from Baghdad.
Residents in Samarra, where the shrine bombing took place Wednesday, were instructed over loudspeakers to stay indoors "until further notice." Many planned to attend a joint Shiite-Sunni prayer service at the Askariya shrine, whose famed golden dome was reduced to a pile of rubble.
In the southern Shiite heartland, more than 10,000 people converged on Basra's al-Adillah mosque, where a representative of Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called another joint service with Sunnis.
The extraordinary measures helped curb, but not eliminate, the violence.
In Basra, where the curfew was not in effect, gunmen Friday kidnapped three children of a Shiite legislator. The son and two daughters of Qasim Attiyah al-Jbouri, aged between 7 and 11 years were abducted by several armed men near the family home, police said.
Al-Jbouri is a member of the Islamic Dawa Party-Iraq Organization and is the former head of Basra's provincial council.
In other recent developments:
The military identified Abu Asma, also known as Abu Anas and Akram Mahmud al-Mushhadani, as an explosives expert with close ties to important car bomb manufacturers in Baghdad. He died in a northern Baghdad raid conducted by coalition forces with the help of Iraqi police, a military statement said.
"Intelligence reports indicated Abu Asma was in possession of and expected to use suicide vests against the Iraqi people and security forces," the statement said. "He was directly responsible for many deaths and injuries of coalition and Iraqi security forces."
"I think if they left in the short term, there would be an increase in violence," said Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was Britain's U.N. ambassador before the war and then London's senior representative in Baghdad until 2004. In December, Greenstock said the insurgency in Iraq could last another five years, and he predicted that 100,000 coalition troops would still be in the country next year.
Elsewhere, police found the bodies of two bodyguards for the Basra head of the Sunni Endowment, a government body that cares for Sunni mosques and shrines. They had been shot.
Late Thursday, Iraqi state television announced an extension of the nighttime curfew until 4 p.m. Friday in Baghdad and the nearby provinces of Diyala, Babil and Salaheddin, where the shrine bombing took place.
But there was little sign of the curfew in Baghdad's teaming Shiite slum, Sadr City, where armed militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been out in force since Wednesday's attack. Iraqi police found six bodies handcuffed and shot near a parking lot in the area, the Interior Ministry said.