MUQDADIYA, Iraq (Reuters) – A suicide bomber blew himself up at a mourning ceremony inside a Shi’ite mosque in Iraq late yesterday, killing at least 22 people, police said.
The explosion brought down the ceiling of the mosque in the town of Muqdadiya, 80 km (50 miles) northeast of the capital Baghdad, crushing Shi’ites who were mourning the death of a police officer in a recent roadside bombing.
Police said the death toll could rise because people remained trapped beneath the rubble.
The violence is part of a sustained campaign of militant attacks since the start of the year that has prompted warnings of wider conflict in a country where ethnic Kurds, Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims have yet to find a stable power-sharing compromise.
A separate suicide bombing in a coffee shop in a Shi’ite district of the city of Baquba, about 50 km northeast of Baghdad, brought yesterday’s death toll to 27.
Insurgents, including al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate, have been regaining ground and recruiting from the country’s Sunni Muslim minority, which feels sidelined following the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and empowered majority Shi’ites.
Sectarian tensions have been inflamed by the civil war in neighbouring Syria, which is fast spreading into a region-wide proxy war, drawing in Shi’ite and Sunni fighters from Iraq and beyond to fight on opposite sides of the conflict.
The number of people killed in militant attacks across Iraq reached 761 in June, the United Nations said yesterday.