Suicide bomber kills 16 in Iraq in 'revenge attack'
23 September, 2013
BAGHDAD: A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a tent filled with mourners in a predominantly Sunni district of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 16 people, police and medical sources said.
A further 35 people were wounded in the attack in Doura, which came a day after a triple bombing at a funeral in Baghdad's Shia stronghold of Sadr City killed 85 people.
Iraq's delicate sectarian balance has been strained to near breaking point by the civil war in neighbouring Syria, where mainly Sunni Muslim rebels are fighting to overthrow a leader backed by Shia Iran.
Both Sunnis and Shias have crossed into Syria from Iraq to fight on opposite sides of the conflict.
Al Qaeda's Iraqi and Syrian branches merged this year to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on both sides of the border.
Iraq has also witnessed several incidents in recent weeks suggesting that Shia militias, which have so far largely refrained from retaliating for attacks by Sunni insurgents, may once again be resorting to violence. Around 800 Iraqis were killed in acts of violence in August, according to the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the UN warned on Sunday against revenge attacks in Iraq after two blasts killed 73 people in a Shia area of Baghdad a day after a Sunni mosque was bombed.
Saturday's bombings struck near funeral tents for a tribal sheikh in the Sadr City district of north Baghdad and also wounded more than 200 people.
It was just the latest in an upsurge of violence that has brought death tolls to their highest level since 2008, when Iraq was emerging from a brutal sectarian conflict.
"Retaliation can only bring more violence and it is the responsibility of all leaders to take strong action not to let violence escalate further," Gyorgy Busztin, the UN secretary general's deputy special representative for Iraq, said in a statement.
"Violence in all forms must be condemned, but I am particularly appalled by the increasing number of vicious attacks against those already bereaved," he said.
The Sadr City bombings were not the first targeting mourners in recent months.
They came after two bombs exploded on Friday at a Sunni mosque near Samarra, north of Baghdad, killing 18 people.
Militants have carried out a number of attacks on both Sunni and Shia mosques this year.
Iraq was ravaged by a bloody Sunni-Shia conflict that peaked in 2006-2007 and killed thousands of people.
There are persistent fears, bolstered by various sectarian attacks this year, that Iraq may return to all-out conflict between the country's Shia majority and Sunni minority.
"Attacks like these are perpetrated by a small minority of terrorists who wish to destabilise Iraq," the British embassy said of the Sadr City blasts.
It called on "all political, religious and community leaders to unite against those who perpetrate these crimes".
On Sunday, mourners placed coffins containing the bodies of victims of the blasts atop vehicles for transport to Najaf for burial near the shrine of Imam Ali, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, an AFP journalist said.
Bare metal frames were all that remained of the funeral tents in Sadr City. Debris including broken plastic furniture and bottles of water distributed to mourners littered the ground.
It was the United Nations' International Day of Peace, which calls for a "complete global cessation of hostilities for one day".