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Deadly reprisal in Baghdad

August 23, 2014

A suicide bomb attack in Baghdad has killed at least 11 people, in what looks like revenge after Friday's mass murder at a Sunni mosque. The attacks could hinder an already fragile political transition in Iraq.

Irak Unruhen Sicherheit
Image: Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images

News agencies reported that the suicide bomber rammed a car into a gate outside the interior ministry in Karrada district just after midday on Saturday, killing six civilians and five security personnel. A police officer said that 24 other people had been injured.

A medical official has since confirmed the causality figures, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The violence came a day after a deadly explosion and subsequent shooting spree at a mosque northeast of Baghdad. Security officials said that attack, in a village in Diyala province, began with a suicide bombing at the entrance, followed by gunfire as worshippers rushed out of the mosque.

At least 70 people were killed in the mosque attack. Twenty other people were said to have been seriously injured.

Stumbling block

The violence comes as Iraq faces one of its deepest political crises in a decade, and as the Jihadist group Islamic State (IS) continues with advances throughout the region.

Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq and Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jibouri, both Sunni, have pulled out of talks with the main Shiite alliance until results of an investigation into the mosque killings are announced.

If talks were to stall, it would be a major hurdle for Shiite prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi, who is looking to unite Sunni and Shiite lawmakers in a new government by September 10.

It was unclear Saturday whether the attack at the village mosque was carried out by Shiite militiamen or IS insurgents who have been advancing into mixed Sunni-Shiite areas in Diyala. Though IS is a self-proclaimed Sunni group, their fighters have also been known to kill Sunni Muslims who refuse to submit to their harsh interpretation of the Islamic code and Sharia law.

UN and Brussels urge unity

In response to the attacks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern about the "impact such acts of sectarian violence will have on the already grave security situation and on the political process."

The European Commission said in a statement from Brussels on Saturday that such "heinous crimes" should not stand in the way of government formation, urging all Iraqis - regardless of religious orientation - to unite against violence.

Earlier this week, a number of EU nations - including Germany - announced readiness to supply northern Iraq with weapons in a bid to stem the IS threat. That followed US airstrikes at the beginning of the month. Until now, US President Barack Obama has rejected direct intervention in Syria.

On Friday, however, a high-ranking Pentagon official said operations against IS in Syria might be necessary to defeat the militant organization. "We've made very clear time and again that if you come after Americans, we're going to come after you wherever you are, and that's what's going to guide our planning in the days to come," Deputy National Security Advisor Rhodes told reporters in Washington.

glb/jr (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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