Iraq: Ramadan blast kills 25

Another courageous strike by the heroic Iraqi resistance against the US occupation forces… oops, we mean against Shi’ite civilians. From AP, Oct. 5, via TruthOut:

A bomb exploded at the entrance of a Shiite Muslim mosque south of Baghdad as hundreds of worshippers gathered for prayers on the first day of Ramadan and for the funeral of a man killed in an earlier bombing. At least 25 people were killed and 87 wounded.

The explosion hit the Husseiniyat Ibn al-Nama mosque, ripping through strings of lightbulbs and green and red flags hung around the entrance to celebrate the start of the holy month. The mosque’s facade was ravaged, shops nearby were destroyed and several cars were damaged.

Hundreds of men had gathered at the mosque, located in the center of Hillah, for prayers before returning home to eat the meal that ends the day’s sunrise to sunset fast, when the blast went off at 6 p.m.

Others were there for the funeral service of a restaurant owner who was killed by a bomb that ripped through his restaurant Monday.

It was the second major bomb attack in a week in Hillah, one of the most insurgent-hit towns in southern Iraq, the heartland of the Shiite majority. Al-Qaida in Iraq, one of the country’s deadliest militant groups, has called for stepped up attacks during Ramadan and has declared an all-out war on Iraq’s Shiites.

The blast also was the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni-led insurgents that have targeted Shiite Muslims in the lead-up to an Oct. 15 referendum on Iraq’s new constitution. Insurgents have vowed to wreck the vote.

The explosion, which police believed was caused by a planted explosive, detonated on the sidewalk next to the mosque’s entrance. At least 25 people were killed and at least 87 wounded, said Dr. Adnan al-Nashtah of the city’s health department.

“While I was praying, I heard a huge blast and realized parts of the mosque were crumbling over my head,” said one survivor, Asaad Jassem, 35. “Some parts of the mosque’s ceiling fell onto worshippers, I saw people on the ground bleeding.”

Haj Mohammed Abdullah, a 45-year-old shopkeeper, had closed his store to come pray.

“We heard an explosion and then I fainted. I woke up when policemen splashed water over my face, and I saw all the damage, the martyrs and the wounded,” he said. “Wow could they do that?” he cried, referring to the attackers.

Wednesday was the first day of Ramadan for Iraq’s Shiite majority. Sunnis began marking the month a day earlier.

The attack came five days after a car bomb exploded in a crowded market, killing 10 people, including three women and two children in Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. A day earlier, a string of car bombs hit in Balad, a Shiite town north of Baghdad, killing around 100 people.

On Feb. 28, a suicide car bomber hit Shiite police and national guard recruits in Hillah, killing 125 people – the deadliest single bombing of the insurgency.

Thousands of US troops are waging two major offensives to try to put down al-Qaida in its strongholds in the mostly Sunni northwest of Iraq.

Moderate Sunni Arab leaders are campaigning against the constitution, trying to defeat it at the polls because they say it will fragment Iraq into Shiite and Kurdish mini-states in the south and north, leaving Sunnis in a weakened central zone.

See our last post on the vertiginous downward spiral in Iraq.