23 killed in bombings at Iraq mosques

A string of bombings targeting Shiite mosques in Iraq yesterday has killed at least 23 people and wounded dozens more.

The attacks were the latest in a series of spectacular assaults staged by insurgents seeking to undermine the Shiite-led government’s efforts to achieve security across the country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the bombings bore the hallmarks of al Qaida’s Iraq branch. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, frequently uses car bombs, suicide bombers and co-ordinated blasts in an effort to sow fear among Shiites and erode their trust in the government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

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Four car bombs hit Shiite mosques in the Iraqi capital as worshippers were leaving after Friday prayers, killing 19 people and wounding 72.

First, a parked car exploded in Baghdad’s western Jihad neighbourhood, killing seven worshippers and wounding 25, then four were killed and nearly 20 wounded in eastern Qahira neighbourhood, three people died and 15 were injured in the eastern Zafaraniyah district, and five were killed and 14 hurt in the north-eastern Binook neighbourhood.

Three health officials confirmed the causality figures.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a group of worshippers as they were leaving a mosque after Friday prayers, killing three people and wounding up to 70, according to police and health officials.

Violence has ebbed sharply since the peak of Sunni-Shiite fighting that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007, but Sunni insurgents still occasionally carry out high-profile attacks against Shiites, considering them to be heretics.

Friday is a particularly popular day for militants to undertake such attacks because of the rush of mostly men and boys who flock to the mosques throughout the country to hear traditional Muslim sermons.