A suicide bomber targeted Friday prayers at a Shia mosque south of Baghdad killing at least nine people. The attack came a day after the Iraqi parliament approved a plan calling for the withdrawal of US troops by the end of 2011.
AFP - A suicide bomber shattered Friday prayers in a Shia mosque south of Baghdad, killing nine people the day after Iraq's parliament approved a landmark pact allowing US troops to remain until 2011.
The attack came as the hardline Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr declared three days of mourning to protest at parliament's approval on Thursday of the accord, which will govern the presence of some 150,000 US troops across the country.
The blast ripped through the main mosque in the town of Musaib after the attacker, strapped with explosives, mingled with the some 300 worshippers inside, police Lieutenant Kadhim al-Shammari said.
One of those killed was an old woman begging for alms at the entrance to the mosque, he added. Another 15 people were wounded in the attack, which destroyed the building's windows and doors and filled it with smoke.
Most of the wounded were taken to the general hospital in Musaib, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Baghdad, but three seriously wounded people were taken for treatment in the nearby town of Hilla.
In July 2005 more than 70 people were killed at the same mosque when a suicide bomber detonated a truck loaded with explosives and cooking gas near the building.
It was unclear whether the attack was linked to the approval of the military pact or Sadr's declaration of mourning, but the congregation of the mosque was considered loyal to the reclusive cleric, who is believed to be in Iran.
Sadr had called on his supporters to "put up black flags, organise mourning ceremonies across the country and hold peaceful demonstrations," in a statement issued by his office in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad.
A close aide to the cleric, Aws al-Khafaji, told a press conference that the Sadr movement would "keep up its rejection of this humiliating accord and resist through all means."
As the Iraqi parliament passed the accord on Thursday, several Sadrist MPs pounded tables in a bid to hinder the vote, chanting "Yes, yes to Iraq... No, no, to the occupation," but the 30-member bloc failed to defeat the agreement.
The agreement will see US troops withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns by the end of June and from the rest of the country by 2011, eight years after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and plunged the nation into chaos.
Iraq has seen dramatic improvements in security over the past year but certain regions still suffer from near-daily bombings and attacks.
Friday's blast bore the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has carried out scores of massive bombings targeting Shiacivilians since the 2003 invasion.
US and Iraqi forces allied with local Sunni militias have largely succeeded in flushing Al-Qaeda fighters out of their former strongholds, but the group retains the ability to regularly carry out smaller attacks.
The security pact with Washington was approved with the support of the country's main Shia, Sunni and Kurdish blocs, and will be sent to the presidential council for formal ratification next week.
The council has 10 days from Sunday to give its blessing to the deal, but in the unlikely case it rejects the pact, it will have to return to parliament.
Date created : 2008-11-28