The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Carnage in Baghdad mosques on holy day

Baghdad, Feb. 18 (Reuters): Suicide bombers killed at least 17 people in attacks on two Shia mosques in Baghdad today as thousands of Shias commemorated Ashura, the main event in their religious calendar.

Separately, a rocket landed near a police station and close to a mosque in a Shia district of northwestern Baghdad killing three people and wounding five in a shop, police said.

In the first suicide attack, a man wearing an explosives- packed vest merged into a crowd near a mosque in the Doura area of southwestern Baghdad and blew himself up, survivors said. The blast killed 15 people and wounded 33, Yarmouk hospital said.

Soon afterwards, an explosion shook a second Shia mosque in western Baghdad, the US military said.

Police initially blamed that blast on a mortar strike but later said two suicide bombers had approached a crowd outside the mosque. They were spotted by police, who shot them, but one still blew himself up, killing at least two people, police said.

Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told CNN he believed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was behind the attacks. The attacks came as thousands of Shias marched through the city for Ashura in a show of strength a day after a Shia alliance was confirmed as the winner of last month's historic election, handing the community power for the first time.

Today's attacks recalled Ashura last year, when 170 people were killed in a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad and Karbala, a holy city to the south of Baghdad where the Ashura ritual, commemorating a 7th century martyr, is most intense.

Dressed in black for mourning and holding aloft green banners bearing the name Hussein, the martyred grandson of the prophet Mohammad, thousands filled central Baghdad for the Ashura march, some of them flailing themselves with chains.

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main party in the Shia alliance that won the January 30 election, addressed the crowd with a message of political conciliation.

'I call on all Iraqis to unite and I assure everyone the Iraq we want is a unified and secure Iraq where every citizen, without exception, enjoys justice and equality,' Hakim said. 'We say it now and we will always say it, that we are open to all Iraqis, because they are partners in this nation,' he said, in one of the strongest declarations yet of Shia intentions to include Sunnis in the political process.

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