News and Information

Deadly attack on Baghdad mosque
January 21, 2005
At least 14 people have been killed in a car bomb attack on a Shia Muslim mosque in Baghdad, Iraqi police say.

Up to 40 people were wounded in the attack on the al-Taf mosque in the south-west of the capital.

Worshippers celebrating the festival of Eid al-Adha were leaving the building when the bomb went off.

The blast came after militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi reportedly denounced Shias for fighting alongside American troops in Iraq.

In an audio recording on an Islamist website, Zarqawi also told his followers to expect to fight US-led forces for years.

In other developments:

* A Danish army officer and four military policemen are charged in Denmark with abusing Iraqi prisoners at a military camp near Basra last year

* An Italian soldier is killed when a helicopter is hit by rebel gunfire as it patrols southern Iraq

* About a dozen insurgents overrun a police station in the western town of Hit, chasing away officers and stealing their weapons, police sources say

* A US soldier is killed during a pre-dawn raid on insurgent bases north of Baghdad, the US military says

* The lives of eight Chinese workers abducted in Iraq remain in the balance as a 48-hour deadline for Beijing to "clarify" its position expires.

Cars burning

After the blast at the Baghdad mosque, injured men, women and children were rushed to a nearby hospital, witnesses said.

Several cars were left burning by the explosion, which occurred after morning prayers.

A mosque employee told the AFP news agency he believed it was a suicide attack.

"The people were leaving the mosque when someone sped up in a car and rammed a minibus which was parked there in front of the mosque," Mohammed Mahmud said.

Worshippers, wearing smart clothes for Eid al-Adha, wailed as they carried their injured children off to hospital, or knelt over the dead bodies of their relatives.

Shia attacks increase

It was the second attack on a Shia mosque in Baghdad in a week, after an explosion on Wednesday in which no worshippers were hurt.

Attacks on Shias have increased as Iraq's elections on 30 January approach.

Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has urged his followers to take part in the election, while some Sunni Muslim organisations have demanded a boycott.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Zarqawi has a US bounty of $25m on his head

In his recording, Zarqawi accused Shias of attacking Sunnis in Falluja "with the blessing" of Mr Sistani.

"They broke into the safe houses of God," the tape said. "They defiled them and they hung the photos of their Satan, al-Sistani, on the walls and they spitefully wrote: 'Today, your land; tomorrow it will be your honour'."

The recording, posted as an audio clip on the internet, warned of a long fight ahead.

"The fruits of jihad come after much patience and a lengthy stay in the battlefield... which could last months and years," said the speaker, who identified himself as Zarqawi.

The US has offered a $25m (13m) reward for Zarqawi, whose group is affiliated to al-Qaeda.


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