Iraqi police arrest four in connection with mosque bombings that killed at least 76
BAGHDAD, Iraq – A car bomb exploded Saturday at a busy market outside Baghdad, killing at least 13 people. Iraqi police said they had arrested four people in the bombing of two Shiite mosques a day earlier, and one man appeared to be a third suicide bomber who did not manage to carry out his mission.At least 21 people were wounded in the explosion early Saturday near the Diyala Bridge area southeast of the Iraqi capital, said police Col. Nouri Ashour. Five women were among the dead.Friday’s attack on the mosques was the deadliest since Sept. 29, when three suicide car bombers killed at least 99 people in the Shiite town of Balad.Hospital officials said 74 people were killed and more than 100 injured. Police said at least 100 people died. The attack occurred in Khanaqin, a Kurdish town just miles from the Iranian border about 90 miles northeast of Baghdad.A security officer in Khanaqin, who asked not to be identified because of the nature of his job, said four people arrested in the blasts, and three were strangers to the town. The fourth was a man detained near the scene and believed to be a third suicide bomber who failed to set off his explosives.The attacks came just minutes after authorities in nearby Baqouba alerted Khanaqin police to the possibility of a suicide bomber in the town.At sundown Friday, dozens of people were still searching the rubble for missing family members and friends. Others collected shredded copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran.American soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division sent medical specialists and supplies to the town.The bombers struck the Grand Mosque and the Sheik Murad Mosque about the same time. The mosques are about a half-mile apart.Omar Saleh was on his knees in prayer at the Grand Mosque.”The roof fell on us and the place was filled with dead bodies,” Saleh, 73, said from his hospital bed.Salem Ali Mohammed, 32, said he was in the mosque’s washroom when he heard a strong explosion. “I thought a rocket had hit the mosque,” he said. “I walked toward the prayer room and saw that the ceiling had collapsed and dead bodies were everywhere.”Earlier Friday a pair of car bombs exploded outside the Hamra hotel in Baghdad, the second attack against a compound housing foreign journalists in the Iraqi capital in less than a month.First a white van exploded near a concrete blast wall around the hotel, blowing a hole in the protective barrier. Less than a minute later, a water tanker packed with explosives plowed through the breach and exploded just inside the barrier.The blast shattered hotel windows and destroyed several nearby homes. Eight Iraqis were killed and at least 43 people were injured, officials said.News organizations housed at the Hamra include NBC News and The Boston Globe.The tactics in the Hamra attack were similar to those employed in the Oct. 24 triple vehicle assault on the Palestine Hotel, where The Associated Press, Fox News and other organizations live and work. In that attack, which killed 17 Iraqis, one of vehicles blew a hole in a concrete blast wall, opening the way for a cement truck packed with explosives to penetrate the compound.But the truck detonated only a few feet into the compound after U.S. troops opened fire and the driver got stuck in debris. A third vehicle went off a short distance away, perhaps as a diversion.The latest attacks in Khanaqin and Baghdad have brought to at least 1,617 the number of Iraqis killed since the Shiite-led government took power April 28, according to an Associated Press count. At least 3,429 have been injured.