Suicide bombers kill 74 at Iraqi Shi'ite mosques

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
By Faris al-Mehdawi
BAGHDAD, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers strapped with
explosives killed at least 74 people and reduced two crowded Shi'ite mosques
to rubble during Friday prayers in the northeast Iraqi town of Khanaqin.
More bodies were trapped, said Ibrahim Ahmed Bajalan, a member of
the Diyala provincial council. "I think there are more than 100 people
dead," he said. Another lesser blast was reported near a bank in the town,
police said.
Kamaran Ahmed, the director of Khanaqin hospital, said 74 people had
been confirmed killed and 150 wounded. He said many bodies were too badly
mutilated to identify.
The attacks in the mixed Shi'ite and Kurdish town near the border
with Iran seemed certain to fuel sectarian tensions ahead of a Dec. 15
election that Washington hopes will pave the way for peace and democracy
2-1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion.
The Shi'ite and Kurdish-led government and its U.S. backers are
fighting a mainly Sunni Arab insurgency that has frequently blown up
civilians in crowded places like mosques and markets.
Police said the bombers entered the small Sheikh Murad and Khanaqin
Grand mosques with explosive belts strapped to their waists and detonated
themselves when the buildings were at their busiest -- during prayers on the
Muslim holy day.
Earlier this month, nearly 30 people were killed at a Shi'ite mosque
in the town of Musayyib, south of Baghdad.
In Baghdad earlier on Friday, two suicide truck bombs failed to
pierce the perimeter of a major hotel and destroyed an apartment block
instead, killing at least six people, including two children, police said.
Police said at least 40 were also wounded in the near simultaneous
blasts at the Hamra Hotel. There were no reports of foreign casualties.
Witnesses at the hotel said body parts were found in the swimming pool and
in the street outside.
Security camera footage showed a white van driving up to blast walls
at the perimeter of the hotel complex and exploding. About 20 seconds later
the second explosion blew out the camera.
The nearby apartment building was reduced to rubble and about 20
cars destroyed.
Firefighters and soldiers searched for those trapped under wreckage,
and distraught women in black veils beat their brows as they surveyed the
destruction. A man embraced a weeping woman.
U.S. Colonel Ed Cardon told reporters at the scene the plan had
appeared to be for the first vehicle to open a path for the second, which
would breach the defences and cause more damage.
"Instead, what happened is both trucks blew up right here and did
tremendous damage to this apartment building right here, wounding scores of
innocent people," he said.
It was the second major attack on high-profile hotels in Baghdad in
a month. The Sheraton and Palestine hotels were hit in late October.
About three hours later, U.S. troops blew up a suspected car bomb in
the same area.

The Hamra is a few hundred yards (metres) from a secret Interior
Ministry bunker raided on Sunday by U.S. forces who found 170 prisoners,
mostly Sunni Arabs, some of whom had apparently been beaten, starved and
Local residents were furious over the attack.
"They targeted Shi'ite houses here regardless of the hotel and they
did not target the shelter (bunker). I had to pull a 15-year-old girl from
the rubble," said Hameed Taha.
United Nations human rights chief Louise Arbour on Friday called for
an international inquiry into Iraqi jails because of the abuse scandal.
(Additional reporting by Twana Othman in Sulaimaniya, Mariam
Karouny, Luke Baker, Aseel Kami, Paul Tait, Salem Uraibi and Michael Georgy
in Baghdad)