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Bombs targeting Shiites kill 29 in Baghdad area

BAGHDAD — A string of bombings targeted Shiite worshipers in the Baghdad area during Friday prayers, killing at least 29 people in an apparently coordinated attack against followers of an anti-U.S. cleric who were blamed for some of Iraq's worst sectarian violence.

The blasts shattered a recent calm and underscored warnings that suspected Sunni insurgents would step up efforts to stoke sectarian violence as the Americans draw down their forces. Despite the violence, July remained one of the calmest months for Iraqis and the least deadly for American forces.

At least 308 Iraqis were killed in July, according to an Associated Press count. Seven American troop deaths were reported — the lowest monthly total since the war started in March 2003.

The largest blast was a car bombing near the al-Shoroufi mosque that killed at least 24 people and wounded nearly 30 in the northern neighborhood of Shaab, a former stronghold of the militia led by Muqtada al-Sadr, whose forces were accused of being behind sectarian bloodshed and were routed last year in a U.S.-backed government offensive.

Nearly simultaneous explosions struck four other Shiite mosques in Baghdad and south of the capital. Four people were killed and 17 wounded near the al-Rasoul mosque in the village of Jisr Diyala, and one died and six were wounded at the al-Sadrain mosque in the southeastern Zafaraniyah neighborhood, according to police and hospital officials.

All the mosques were Sadrist except the al-Hakim mosque in Kamaliyah, which belongs to a rival Shiite party.

A Sadr aide, Amir al-Kenani, called it a coordinated attack against the cleric's loyalists, blaming al-Qaida in Iraq and political parties trying to undermine the movement. Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran, has ordered a cease-fire and is seeking to position himself as a political force before national elections in January.

Also Friday, a car bomb exploded near an outdoor market in a Kurdish area in the disputed city of Kirkuk, killing at least two people, police said.


Arrests reported

The U.S. State Department said Friday it was investigating reports that three American tourists have been detained by Iranians while hiking near Iran's border with the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Two Kurdish officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information, told the Associated Press the Americans apparently were arrested after entering Iranian territory without permission. Iranian officials made no immediate comment.

Bombs targeting Shiites kill 29 in Baghdad area 07/31/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 31, 2009 10:26pm]
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