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As many as 34 Iraqis slain

Bombs in Sinjar and Dujayl, north of the capital, target crowds of Shiites on the Muslim sabbath.

September 13, 2008|Tina Susman | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Two bombings, one of which killed as many as 32 people, tore through crowds Friday north of the capital, where Iraqi and U.S. officials say the insurgent threat is the most severe.

Both attacks targeted Shiite Muslims and appeared to be the work of Sunni Arab insurgents. They struck on the Muslim sabbath, when people tend to let their guard down.

The worse attack came in Dujayl, about 40 miles north of Baghdad, shortly before sunset, when the streets were crowded with people shopping for the breaking of the fast, which Muslims are observing from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan.

A car bomb exploded outside Dujayl's central police station. Concrete barriers surrounding the station apparently deflected the brunt of the blast toward shops and other businesses along the busy street.

Accounts of the death toll differed, with some Iraqi officials putting it at 32 and U.S. military officials saying they had reports of 23 deaths. Dozens were reported wounded, and at least two of the dead were police officers.

"It was horrible. The body parts were scattered everywhere on the main street," said Ali Dujuly, who lives near the police station.

Earlier, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Shiite mosque in Sinjar, in the northern province of Nineveh near the border with Syria. Witnesses said guards at a concrete barrier outside the mosque were suspicious and tried to prevent the bomber from entering. At least two worshipers died and 15 were wounded as they left the mosque after Friday prayers.

Faisal Marwan, a Sunni in Sinjar, said fellow Sunni Arabs rushed to the Shiite mosque after the blast to help evacuate the wounded and to donate blood.

The region, west of the city of Mosul, is a frequent target of Sunni Arab insurgents because of its proximity to the Syrian border, which is believed to be the crossing point for many insurgent recruits. In addition, Shiite Kurds and other groups in the region are regarded by the insurgents as rivals for control.

Though much of Iraq is relatively stable, areas north of the capital continue to be plagued by bombings, a sign of what U.S. officials have called the ability of the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq to replenish its forces with foreign fighters and evade a series of military offensives.

Dujayl is a mainly Shiite town famous for being the site of a campaign of vengeance by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein after an assassination attempt there in the 1980s.

After the attempt on his life, the Sunni leader ordered the roundup of Shiite men and boys and the destruction of homes in the town. Hussein and six others were convicted in 2006 in the killings of 148 people from Dujayl and Hussein was hanged Dec. 30 that year.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

Special correspondents in Taji and Mosul contributed to this report.

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