Bomb in Shiite neighborhood kills dozens in funeral procession

January 27, 2012

A suicide bomber detonated a car full of explosives near a funeral procession here Friday morning, killing at least 31 people and injuring at least 60, a security official said.

Mourners had gathered outside a hospital to receive the bodies of three people killed the night before, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The blast occurred in the Shiite neighborhood of Zafaraniyah, in the city’s southeast.

Violence has intensified in Iraq over the past six weeks amid a political crisis that followed the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Many of the attacks, for which insurgents have asserted responsibility, have targeted Shiite neighborhoods and Shiite pilgrims on religious marches.

In a recent Internet audio posting, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq said it would direct attacks against Iraq’s Shiites and Shiite-led government, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a monitoring service. Officials say they are concerned that the insurgents are trying to provoke Shiite militias to counterattack, igniting a sectarian war. Sunni targets also have been struck in the western part of the country, although it is not clear whether or how those attacks are related to the strikes against Shiites.

The bombing Friday morning targeted people already reeling from violence in the neighborhood the night before. According to the security official, gunmen had stormed into a real estate office and killed three people. Their bodies were being taken from the hospital for burial when the car bomb detonated Friday.

Salam Hussein, a 42-year-old grocery store owner in Zafaraniyah, told the Associated Press that he was watching the funeral procession when the blast blew out his store windows. He said several police cars had been guarding the procession.

“It was a huge explosion,” Hussein told the AP. He said that as he took one of his workers to the hospital, he saw cars engulfed in flames, “human flesh scattered around and several mutilated bodies in a pool of blood” around the site of the explosion.

It was the second consecutive day of significant violence in Iraq. More than 15 people were killed in attacks Thursday, including nine who died when bombers struck the home of two policemen, and brothers, south of Baghdad.

Post staff writer Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County, Md.
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