Bomb blast kills 30 at US-Iraqi base in Mosul

None | ByReuters, Baghdad
Mar 27, 2006 06:39 PM IST

The blast kept tensions high in Iraq a day after the killing of 20 Shi'ites at a mosque compound in the capital.

A bomb blast killed at least 30 Iraqis at a base near the northern city of Mosul on Monday, police said, keeping tensions high a day after the killing of 20 Shi'ites at a mosque compound in Baghdad.

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The US military said a car bomb had exploded at an Iraqi police recruitment centre at Kisak, west of Mosul, causing no American casualties. It did not give the Iraqi death toll.

Interior Ministry sources said earlier that an explosion, possibly the work of a suicide bomber, had killed at least 30 people at a US-Iraqi army base.

It was not immediately clear if the police recruitment centre was inside the army base.

In Baghdad, angry mourners buried 20 people shot dead at a Shi'ite mosque compound the day before.

Confusion still surrounds Sunday's killings at the Mustafa mosque complex near Baghdad's Sadr City, a stronghold of radical cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, whose aides have accused US troops of massacring unarmed worshippers.

The US military has not responded directly to these charges, but has described an Iraqi special forces raid, backed by U.S. advisers, in which it said 16 insurgents were killed.

Police and residents say many of the dead were killed in clashes between American troops and Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.

As the burials began, men wailed and hugged each other as coffins were transported on the top of vans.

In a sign of how little faith some Iraqis have in U.S.-backed government forces, furious mourners said only the Mehdi Army could protect them from sectarian bloodshed.

"No one is protecting us," shouted Hamid Taayab, his voice high-pitched with anger, waving his arms wildly. "If it wasn't for the Mehdi Army we would be slaughtered in our homes."

Baghdad provincial governor Hussein al-Tahan said he would suspend all cooperation with US forces until the killings had been investigated by a panel he said should include the Iraqi defence ministry and the US embassy but not the US military.

The US military said no mosque had been attacked or damaged in a raid on Sunday by Iraqi special forces and US advisers on a building where 16 fighters were killed.

The building was in roughly the same area as the Mustafa mosque.

Some Shi'ites said the building that was raided was a husseiniya, or meeting-hall, rather than the mosque itself.

The US statement said 15 people had been seized and an Iraqi hostage freed. With conflicting reports from all sides it has been impossible to pin down exactly what happened.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said the leader was "deeply concerned" and had called the US commander in Iraq, General George Casey, who promised an inquiry.

Sadr aide Hazim al-Araji called for calm from the cleric's followers and accused the United States of trying to drag Sadr's group into a confrontation to obstruct the political process.

"The American forces went into Mustafa mosque and killed more than 20 worshippers," Araji said. "They tied them up and shot them."

Violence between Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs, who were favoured under Saddam Hussein's rule, has been rising. Many Iraqis fear the bloodshed could spiral into all-out civil war.

Police said they found the strangled, tortured bodies of 12 more apparent victims of sectarian feuding in Baghdad on Monday.

Scores of corpses, often mutilated, are turning up across Iraq every day. The killing is so commonplace that the discovery of 30 bodies, many beheaded, in a village northeast of Baghdad on Sunday barely drew a mention in local media.

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