Bush blocks troop withdrawal as bomb kills 10 in Baghdad mosque

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The Independent Online

A shoe bomber blew himself up in one of Baghdad's Shia mosques at Friday prayers, killing at least 10 and wounding 20, as the US House of Representatives rejected a timetable to pull American soldiers out of Iraq.

The imam of the Buratha mosque - a member of the governing Shia coalition who often criticised the Sunni terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - blamed al-Qa'ida in Iraq for the attack in which the explosives were hidden in the sandals of the attacker to avoid security checks.It was the second time the mosque has been hit in just over two months. The first occasion was on 7 April, again after Friday prayers. That attack was also blamed on Zarqawi who was killed in a US air strike on 7June. The new leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has vowed to avenge Zarqawi's death.

In Washington, House Republicans rammed through a bitterly contested resolution yesterday. The resolution, which passed by 256 to 153, reiterates the Bush administration's stance that the ever more unpopular war, which has now cost 2,500 American lives, is part of the global "war on terror", and declares that the setting of an "arbitrary date" for a pull-out is not in the US national interest. The vote followed 12 hours of debate - the first serious House discussion of Iraq since the invasion three years ago.

It gave a vivid foretaste of the looming election campaign, in which Republicans will seek to portray Democrats as defeatist and "soft" on terror, a tactic that paid handsome dividends in 2002 and 2004.

"Retreat is not an option in Iraq," House majority leader John Boehner declared. "Achieving victory is our only option for the American people and our kids." But Democrats said the vote was a farce, as they denounced the Bush administration's handling of the war.