Violence Targeted at Shiites On Holy Day Kills 60 in Iraq

Samer Abu Kamar, shown in an Iraqi newspaper photo, led a messianic Shiite cult that plotted to attack Shiites in Najaf.
Samer Abu Kamar, shown in an Iraqi newspaper photo, led a messianic Shiite cult that plotted to attack Shiites in Najaf. (Saad Serhan - Ftwp)
By Ernesto Londoño and Saad Sarhan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 -- Attackers using bombs, rockets and guns killed at least 60 Shiite worshipers Tuesday as they observed their most sacred holiday, Iraqi officials said.

The day's deadliest incident occurred in the town of Baladruz, in Diyala province in eastern Iraq, when a suicide bomber walked through the main gate of the Ali al-Akbar mosque and detonated his explosives, killing 17 people and injuring at least 57, according to Ali al-Khaiyam, a police spokesman.

The worshipers were marking Ashura, which commemorates the death of the prophet Muhammad's grandson in a 7th-century battle at Karbala, in what is now southern Iraq. The city is the focal point of the 10-day festival, which culminated Tuesday.

At least 11 other Shiites observing the holiday were killed in Khanaqin, also in Diyala, near the Iranian border, after a bomb left at a market exploded, Khaiyam said.

A roadside bomb killed 15 Shiites participating in an Ashura procession in Baqubah, the capital of Diyala, and injured at least 30 civilians, according to Brig. Sadoun Salih of the Interior Ministry.

Five other people were killed in the province in other violent acts, Khaiyam said.

Violence targeting Shiites also broke out in Baghdad. A roadside bomb in the sprawling Shiite enclave of Sadr City struck an Ashura procession, killing seven people and wounding 23, Salih said.

In other neighborhoods, gunmen fired Katyusha rockets at processions and used machine guns to attack passing buses heading to Karbala, Salih added. He said at least three people died in those incidents.

In another attack on Shiites headed to Karbala, gunmen opened fire on passengers in a bus leaving Baghdad, killing seven, Salih said.

Mortar shells crashed down into the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiyah, in northern Baghdad, on Tuesday morning. "We have stopped going out or moving in the neighborhood, because one of the rockets fell just in front of my house," resident Yaarub Fadhil Hussein, 41, said in a telephone interview.

Meanwhile, at the scene of a fierce day-long battle Sunday near Najaf between the followers of a Shiite cult leader and Iraqi and U.S. troops, a clearer picture of the group emerged Tuesday as Iraqi investigators explored its village. A Washington Post special correspondent toured the site.

The village, home to at least 700 people, had several brick houses, a large tented area where meals were served, a printing press used to publish a newspaper, and stockpiles of dry food. There were also a small mosque and dozens of vehicles.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company