Bomb kills eight in Iraq


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A bomb exploded in a car parked 10 yards from a Sunni Muslim mosque yesterday, killing eight worshipers in Iraq's deadliest attack of a week otherwise marked by conciliatory words between leaders of feuding religious sects.

The midday blast hit worshipers leaving the Iskan Shaabi mosque after the main weekly prayer service in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood. Witnesses said bodies flew through the air and nearby cars went up in flames, sending smoke through the mosque's shattered windows. At least 22 other people were wounded.

No group claimed responsibility. A Sunni Arab political party blamed foreign elements of the Sunni-led insurgency, which is divided over whether to continue targeting civilians in its campaign against U.S. forces and Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government.

Two Marines died, meanwhile, after their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb Thursday near the embattled city of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, the U.S. military announced.

Iraq's electoral commission certified final results of the Dec. 15 election, setting the stage for U.S.-backed talks aimed at bringing minority Sunnis into a broad-based government and undercutting the insurgency.

In the run-up to the talks, Shiite and Sunni leaders have tempered their words and insurgents have diminished the scale of violence.

Shiites marked their most important religious holiday Thursday without a terrorist attack such as the insurgent bombings that had marred it the past two years.

During Friday prayers at Baghdad's Um Qura mosque, normally a place of hard-line Sunni rhetoric, Sheik Ali Sanad offered rare words of affection for Imam Hussein, the Shiite saint commemorated in Thursday's Ashura festivities. Sanad called on Sunnis and Shiites to honor Hussein's legacy by "stopping the bloodshed in Iraq ... through honest dialogue."

The gesture echoed a call Wednesday by the leader of the largest Shiite party, Abdul Aziz Hakim, for greater respect for human rights by Iraq's Shiite-led police forces, whose violent raids, arbitrary detentions and alleged summary executions have enraged the Sunnis.

One such incident blamed on police occurred in Baghdad late Thursday. Adel Khalil Dawoud, a Sunni cleric, was dragged from his home by at least 15 men in uniforms of the Interior Ministry special forces, the cleric's brother said. Dawoud had fled to Jordan to avoid sectarian attacks and recently returned.

The Interior Ministry called the incident a kidnapping and denied that its forces were involved.

Citing such alleged police abuse, Sunni political leaders have demanded the removal of Interior Minister Bayan Jabr as a condition for entering the government. Jabr has incorporated members of his Badr Brigade, the sectarian militia of Hakim's Shiite party, into the ministry's police forces.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad appeared to endorse the Sunni demand in a statement yesterday, saying Cabinet ministers in the new government "should be dedicated to the defense of Iraqi democracy, not to party militias."

Richard Boudreaux writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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