June 18, 2013 / 9:57 AM / 4 years ago

Twin suicide bombs kill 29 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two coordinated suicide bombings at a Shi‘ite Muslim mosque in Baghdad killed at least 29 worshippers at noon prayers on Tuesday, medics said.

Onlookers gather outside a Shi'ite mosque to inspect the damage after a suicide bomb attack in al-Qahira district of northern Baghdad, June 18, 2013.Two coordinated suicide bombings at a Shi'ite Muslim mosque in Baghdad killed at least 29 worshippers at noon prayers on Tuesday, medics said. REUTERS/Saad Shalash

The first bomber detonated his charge at a checkpoint about 100 metres (yards) away from the mosque in al-Qahira district of northern Baghdad. He was followed minutes later by a second who blew himself up inside the building.

“The (second) suicide bomber detonated himself among the worshippers, who were gathering after the call to prayer,” said policeman Furat Faleh, who was near the site of the blast.

More than 1,000 people were killed in militant attacks in Iraq in May, according to the United Nations, making it the deadliest month since the sectarian war of 2006-2007.

Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled former president Saddam Hussein in 2003, a stable power-sharing compromise between Iraq’s Sunni, Shi‘ite and ethnic Kurdish factions remains elusive.

Sectarian relations in Iraq have come under strain from the conflict in neighbouring Syria, where mainly Sunni rebels are fighting to overthrow a leader backed by Shi‘ite Iran.

Iraqi Sunnis and Shi‘ites have crossed into Syria to fight on opposing sides, heightening concerns they are bringing the conflict back home, where both sects have been targeted by violence since the beginning of the year.

The wave of attacks has coincided with protests by Iraq’s Sunnis, who accuse the Shi‘ite-led government of marginalising their minority sect and being a stooge of Iran.

Sunni Islamist insurgent groups appear to be feeding on Sunni discontent and gaining recruits.

It is not clear who exactly is behind the attacks but a number of Sunni Islamist insurgent groups operate in Iraq, including an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

Al Qaeda’s local wing, Islamic State of Iraq, may spearhead the violence, but other Sunni armed groups are also resurgent, including the Naqshbandi army, an expanding network of Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party members and ex-army officers.

Reporting by Kareem Raheem; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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