Suicide Attack Kills 13 at Mosque in Northern Iraq
Friday, October 16, 2009; 5:42 PM
BAGHDAD, Oct. 16 -- A gunman on Friday opened fire in a mosque in northern Iraq, shooting several worshipers before blowing himself up, security officials said. Thirteen people were killed.
Police said the gunman attacked the mosque during the noon prayer in a Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Tal Afar, a predominantly Shiite town populated by the Turkmen ethnic minority in Nineveh province.
Tal Afar, 260 miles north of Baghdad and near the Syrian border, has long been the target of suicide attackers and car bombers, but Friday's attack marked one of the few times that a Sunni mosque there was attacked. Security officials said they believe the mosque was targeted because its preacher, Abdel Satar Hassan, who was among the dead, was a staunch critic of al-Qaeda.
Suicide attacks are a hallmark of al-Qaeda and other Sunni Islamist militant groups.
An Interior Ministry official said that, moments before the attack, a car carrying four gunmen and the driver refused to stop at a checkpoint at the entrance of the town. When soldiers opened fire on the car, three of the armed men fled. The fourth one walked into the mosque and opened fire on worshipers with an AK-47 rifle.
When that gunman ran out of ammunition, the official said, he detonated his explosive belt. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media.
Worshipers said the attacker shouted "God is great" before he blew himself up. Hospital officials said at least 75 people were injured.
Violence in Iraq has dropped sharply since 2007. But car bombings, shootings and suicide attacks are still relatively common. Security officials believe that many of the militants driven out of Baghdad and other provinces have regrouped in Nineveh.