August 8, 2009 in Nation/World

Dozens killed in Iraq bomb blasts

Officials fear renewal of sectarian violence
Kim Gamel Associated Press
Associated Press photo

An Iraqi policeman walks beside a minibus carrying Shiite pilgrims that was struck by a roadside bomb.
(Full-size photo)

BAGHDAD – A suicide truck bomber flattened a Shiite mosque Friday in northern Iraq, and roadside bombs struck Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad, as at least 51 people were killed and scores wounded nationwide.

It was the second-deadliest day since U.S. forces turned over urban security to the Iraqis more than a month ago, raising fears that Sunni insurgents are intensifying a campaign to reignite sectarian violence that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

The blast in a northern suburb of Mosul reduced the mosque and several nearby houses to rubble, leaving scores of worshippers and neighbors trapped underneath. Rescue crews and ordinary citizens joined forces to pull bodies from the debris and search for survivors.

At least 38 people were killed and some 200 wounded, according to police.

The attack targeted a mosque used by members of the minority Shiite Turkomen community in the tense northern city, which the U.S. military has dubbed the last urban stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq. Suicide car bombings are the signature style of attack used by the terror network.

Witnesses said the explosives apparently were hidden in white bags usually used to transport grain and casualties were high because the blast struck as funeral services were being held along with Friday prayers.

Roadside bombs also targeted Shiite pilgrims returning from the holy city of Karbala, where hundreds of thousands of followers converged to celebrate the birth of Mohammed al-Mahdi, the 12th Shiite imam, who disappeared in the ninth century.

The first bomb targeted a minibus ferrying pilgrims back to Baghdad’s main Shiite district of Sadr City, killing at least four people and wounding eight, according to police and hospital officials.

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