Car bomb kills 14 outside Baghdad mosque

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The Independent Online

A car bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad today, killing at least 14 people and wounding 40, police and hospital officials said, in the latest violence in the lead-up to this month's elections.

A car bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad today, killing at least 14 people and wounding 40, police and hospital officials said, in the latest violence in the lead-up to this month's elections.

The explosives-laden car blew up outside the al-Taf mosque in the capital's southwest, where Shiites were celebrating one of Islam's most important holidays, Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice. The feast coincides with the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Attacks on Shiites have increased in the run-up to Iraq's January 30th parliamentary and provincial elections. Today's blast was the second outside a Shiite mosque in the capital this week and it came a day after a chief terror leader in Iraq berated Shiites in an Internet audio recording that appeared aimed at sowing division in the country.

Iraq's Shiites - a community that was oppressed for decades - strongly supports the vote, believing it will propel them to a position of influence equal to their standing as the country's majority group. They make up about 60 percent of the Iraq's 26 million people.

But militants among the Sunni Arab minority - which lost privilege when their patron Saddam Hussein was toppled - have vowed to stop the vote.

Some Sunni clerics and politicians have called for a boycott of the vote, saying violence in Sunni areas will keep people from the polls and skew the outcome of the balloting against them.

An official at Baghdad's al-Yarmouk Hospital said the blast at the mosque killed at least 14 people and wounded 40 others.

The car exploded as worshippers were leaving prayers in the building, a witness said. The blast left several cars in flames and showered the area with charred debris.

At al-Yarmouk Hospital, dozens of weeping men and women franticly searched for news about loved ones feared caught up in the bombing.

A distraught man sat beside his dead 14-year-old son, covered with a sheet, and cried out, "I had breakfast with him this morning. I told him, 'Let's go to your grandfather,' but he insisted on going for prayers first."

A woman dressed in a black cloak, or abaya, fainted as she identified the body of her son in the hospital's morgue. She was carried away by relatives.

In a new Internet audio recording purportedly from Iraq's most feared terror leader, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the speaker denounced Iraqi Shiites for fighting alongside US troops.

Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Iraq's al-Qaida affiliate, ridiculed Iraq's most prominent Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and berated Shiites for fighting alongside American troops against their Sunni countrymen in Fallujah in November.

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