46 killed in bombings and attacks across Iraq
30 September, 2013
HILLA/ARBIL: Around 46 people were reportedly killed in Iraq on Sunday as sectarian attacks on mosques and funerals have intensified. In the latest incident, at least 40 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shia Muslim funeral in a southern Iraqi town on Sunday.
The blast brought down the ceiling of the mosque in Mussayab, 60km south of the capital Baghdad. Police said some bodies were still trapped beneath the debris. At least 50 people were wounded. Those inside had been mourning the death of a man killed a day earlier by militants. "Until now, we are trying to retrieve bodies from under the debris. Most of the bodies were torn to pieces. Legs and hands were scattered on ground," said a policeman at the scene.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the bombing, which is the latest in a spate of attacks targeting both Sunni and Shia places of worship, particularly during funerals.
Suicide bombings are the hallmark of al Qaeda. Several other attacks in recent weeks also suggest that Shia militias, which have so far largely refrained from retaliating, may once again be resorting to violence.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in acts of violence since the start of the year, according to monitoring group Iraq Body Count.
Meanwhile, militants killed six people in the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq on Sunday, officials said, in a rare attack on an area usually spared violence plaguing the country.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's spokesman said the deadly attack might be linked to the bloody civil war in neighbouring Syria, where jihadists have battled Kurdish forces.
A senior Kurdish security official said two militants opened fire at the headquarters of the "asayesh" security service in Arbil, then entered and blew themselves up.
An explosives-rigged ambulance also detonated at the scene, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Kurdistan Health Minister Raykot Hama Rashid told journalists that six asayesh members were killed and more than 60 people wounded in the attack.
An AFP journalist heard three blasts in Arbil, and heavy gunfire. Smoke could be seen rising in the air, as ambulances raced to the scene.
While much of Iraq is plagued by near-daily violence that kills hundreds of people each month, the three-province Kurdistan region in the country's north has largely been spared the deadly unrest.
Sunday's blasts were the first to hit Arbil since May 2007, when a truck bomb exploded near the same asayesh headquarters, killing 14 people and wounding more than 80.
"Syria has affected all of us," the Iraqi premier's spokesman Ali Mussawi told AFP, adding that the attacks may be "one of the offshoots of the Syrian crisis."
Iraqi security analyst Ali al-Haidari agreed.
"The attack is linked to the differences between the Kurds and Al-Nusra Front," Haidari said, referring to a rebel jihadist group that operates in Syria.
"Today's attack is Al-Nusra Front's revenge against the Kurds inside Kurdistan," he said.
Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has become increasingly embroiled in the bloody conflict raging across the border in Syria.
Clashes last month between Kurdish forces and jihadists seeking to secure a land corridor connecting them to Iraq pushed tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds across the border, seeking refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Region President Massud Barzani has threatened to intervene in the Syrian conflict to protect Kurdish civilians, although officials have since backtracked on those remarks. The blasts came a day after results were announced for the region's parliamentary elections, which saw an opposition movement in second place ahead of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's party. Iraqi Kurdistan enjoys a high level of autonomy from Baghdad, and the regional parliament has passed laws on a wide range of issues. The Kurdish region also operates its own security forces and visa regime.