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Insurgents turn on Sunnis

The day after a sermon critical of Al Qaeda, 37 die in a mosque blast.

February 25, 2007|Christian Berthelsen and Borzou Daragahi | Times Staff Writers

BAGHDAD — At least 37 Iraqis were killed Saturday in a highly unusual insurgent bomb attack against Sunni Arabs as they were leaving a mosque.

A preacher at the Sahaba mosque in Habbaniya, 40 miles west of Baghdad, had delivered a blistering sermon a day earlier condemning Al Qaeda activities in Iraq, an official in the town said.

U.S. military officials helped secure the site and evacuate dozens of injured Iraqis. The most seriously wounded were taken to a nearby base, a news release said.

Shiite Muslims are the main Iraqi targets of the Sunni-led insurgency. But police and residents in the Sunni Muslim-dominated area said the people had largely aligned against Al Qaeda militants operating in the region. They said most of the young men in the village, between Fallouja and Ramadi, were employed in the police and the army -- unusual for Al Anbar province, long a hotbed of insurgent activities.

The mosque, as well as a nearby market and shops, was severely damaged in the explosion.

Across Iraq on Saturday, car bombs and mortar attacks killed and wounded dozens of people, including a car bomb outside the Baghdad headquarters of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the largest Shiite voting bloc in the Iraqi parliament, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Three people were killed and seven others were injured, primarily merchants and their customers.

Another car bomb in an area busy with vendors near the capital's fortified Green Zone, where U.S. and Iraqi government offices are located, killed two people and injured eight others. Rocket and mortar fire killed one and injured nearly two dozen others, including some women and children, in incidents in south and west Baghdad.

Iraqi special forces shot and killed a would-be suicide bomber as he was trying to detonate an explosive device in a crowd in a mixed area of southern Baghdad.

Some of the attacks Saturday targeted Iraqi military and police installations that had been established in the renewed effort to secure the country, injuring officers.

A former Iraqi general was assassinated by gunmen near his house in southwest Baghdad, and a tribal sheik was killed in a drive-by shooting in the northern city of Kirkuk.

Police patrols found the bullet-riddled bodies of 20 men dumped around the capital on Saturday, a higher tally than in recent days but still lower than during the spasm of violence that had consumed Baghdad in past weeks.

daragahi@latimes.com

christian.berthelsen @latimes.com

Times staff writers Saif Rasheed, Said Rifai and Zeena Kareem and special correspondents in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Baqubah contributed to this report.

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