Eight killed in Sunni mosque bombing in Baghdad, two more U.S. Marines die | VailDaily.com

Eight killed in Sunni mosque bombing in Baghdad, two more U.S. Marines die

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A car bomb killed at least eight people Friday outside a Sunni mosque in Baghdad and gunmen abducted a Sunni cleric, raising sectarian tensions as the election commission gave the final go-ahead for talks to begin in earnest on a new government.The blast occurred about 10 yards from the Iskan al-Shaabi mosque in the tense Dora neighborhood, shattering windows and showering glass on worshippers at the main weekly Muslim prayer service.At least 21 people were injured, according to Dr. Muhannad Jawad of Yarmouk General Hospital. Pools of blood in the street indicated that most of the dead were outside the mosque.About an hour later, several masked gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” arrived in two cars and began shooting at people standing outside the mosque, witnesses said.An Associated Press photographer saw two bystanders gunned down by the masked men, one of whom held a pistol to the head of a woman. The photographer fled, but police later said the woman was killed and two men were wounded.Also Friday, the U.S. military said two Marines were killed the day before by a roadside bomb near Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad. At least 2,269 U.S. military personnel have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.The U.S. Central Command, meanwhile, said U.S. jets flew in support of U.S. and Iraqi troops “in contact with anti-Iraqi forces” Thursday near eight cities of central and northern Iraq, including Baghdad. No further details were released.No group claimed responsibility for the mosque attack, and it was unclear whether the gunmen were the ones responsible for the car bomb. Dora has been the scene of numerous attacks by Sunni insurgents against Shiite police and soldiers, and Friday’s violence could have been carried out by Shiite militants in retaliation.”Terrorists are trying to drive a wedge between Sunnis and Shiites,” said Ahmed Hassan, 36, who was praying inside the mosque when the blast occurred.”Some worshippers were leaving and others were praying inside when the explosion blasted glass all over us,” he said. “Smoke filled the mosque. Outside we were shocked to see so many wounded people and cars on fire.”The mosque attack is likely to raise tensions between Shiites and Sunnis as politicians seek to form a national unity government including representatives of all communities in hopes of weakening support for the Sunni-led insurgency.On Friday, the election commission formally certified the results of the Dec. 15 balloting, which gave Shiite religious parties 128 of the 275 parliament seats.Sunni Arabs made major gains over the last election in January 2005. Two Sunni Arab blocs won a combined 55 seats, increasing their representation by more than threefold on the outgoing parliament.Separately, in Damascus, the radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said Friday he would support “any Iraqi government that wants the independence and stability of Iraq.”He rejected the United States’ labeling of the Iraqi resistance as terrorist and said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who heads the al-Qaida in Iraq group, was “a fictitious personality or one created by the (U.S.) occupation.”Al-Sadr also said he hoped that the sweeping victory by the Palestinian militant Hamas group would be the beginning of an “Islamic awakening.”Formal certification of the Iraqi vote means all election protests have been dismissed and paves the way for talks among the different parties to begin in earnest on a new government. Under the constitution, the new parliament will convene within two weeks, the next step in a process to choose a new president, prime minister and Cabinet.Under the law, the process should be complete by mid-May, but rising sectarian tensions could complicate the negotiations.Shiites, who control most of the parliament seats, want Sunni Arabs to take a firm stand against the insurgency. Sunnis demand an end to alleged abuses by Shiite-led security services accused of kidnapping and assassinating Sunni civilians.In the latest such incidents, relatives of a 34-year-old Sunni cleric, Adel Khalil Dawoud, said at least a dozen armed men wearing police uniforms burst into his Baghdad overnight and dragged him away.”Three vehicles, one with flashing police lights, came to our house and about 15 or 16 men wearing special forces uniforms got out and pushed my sister’s two guards away and insulted them before breaking into the house and my sister’s room saying that they wanted Adel,” said the cleric’s brother, Tahsin Khalil Azawi.The cleric, whose sister is a former lawmaker, Rajaa Khalil Dawoud, recently returned to Iraq from Jordan where he lived for six months to avoid attacks by Shiites against Sunni religious leaders, his brother said.The cleric’s sister told the men that her brother was in Jordan, but they barged into his upstairs room and dragged him into one of the cars, Azawi said. He blamed Shiite militiamen for the kidnapping.Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal, the Interior Ministry’s undersecretary for intelligence, said police were not involved in the abduction and investigations were under way to find the cleric.”Those who are carrying out these operations are outlaws,” Kamal said. “If we want to arrest anyone, even officials, we must obtain an arrest warrant from a court, then inform their family and carry out the arrest during daylight.”

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