Suicide bomber kills 24 near Sunni mosque in Baghdad

Times Staff Writers

A suicide car bomber struck a crowded area beside one of the capital’s historic Sunni mosques Monday, killing 24 people and injuring 68, authorities said.

The location of the blast, about a mile east of the heavily fortified Green Zone, appeared to have been chosen somewhat randomly when the driver approached a checkpoint manned by Iraqi security forces who blocked him from passing, a witness said.

“Before the blast, I heard soldiers at the army checkpoint saying ‘Stop!’ to the man driving the car,” said 36-year-old Abu Noor, who was passing through the checkpoint on a motorcycle. “I heard them loudly asking him where he was going, but he would not answer. When he was verified to be suspicious, the soldiers opened fire on his car and that was when he blew himself up.”


Kamil Abdullah, the 40-year-old owner of an insecticide shop more than 100 yards from the site near the Gailani Mosque, said the explosion was so powerful that he was knocked unconscious and awoke more than an hour later at a nearby hospital.

“Half of my shop is completely damaged,” he said. “I’m told by my family that many of our friends were either killed or injured.”

Only blocks away in central Baghdad, a separate violent scene played out earlier in the day. Gunmen stopped two small buses and took hostage 21 passengers attempting to make their way to the eastern side of the city.

U.S. and Iraqi security forces formed a perimeter around the abduction site in the busy, cramped Fadhil commercial area and battled the militants. The fighting, at times carried out with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, left three police officers dead and four other people injured.

Late in the day, the narrow alleyways of the Sunni-dominated neighborhood looked like archeological ruins in some places, with yellow brick buildings destroyed or crumbling.

Banks, offices and other businesses were emptied, and many were pockmarked with bullet holes.


By nightfall, the fate of the hostages was still unclear.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, eight other explosions from bombs, mortars or rockets killed at least 21 people. Gunmen were blamed for one additional death, police said.

Police found an additional 33 bodies, the apparent victims of sectarian death squads, said a source in the Interior Ministry. Twelve were found lying together, and many bore marks of torture.

In northern Iraq, prominent newspaper editor and Turkmen advocate Mahmoud Qadir Qassab was killed by gunmen in the town of Mossalah.


Times staff writer Zeena Kareem in Baghdad and special correspondents in Baghdad and Kirkuk contributed to this report.