Suicide bomber kills 40 at Iraq mosque


By Ali al-Rubaie

HILLA, Iraq, Sept 29 (Reuters) - At least 40 people werekilled when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shi-ite Muslimfuneral in a southern Iraqi town on Sunday.

The blast brought down the ceiling of the mosque inMussayab, 60km (40 miles) south of the capital Baghdad. Policesaid some bodies were still trapped beneath the debris. At least50 people were wounded.

Those inside had been mourning the death of a man killed aday earlier by militants.

"Until now, we are trying to retrieve bodies from under thedebris. Most of the bodies were torn to pieces. Legs and handswere scattered on ground," said a policeman at the scene.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the bombing,which is the latest in a spate of attacks targeting both Sunniand Shi'ite places of worship, particularly during funerals.

Iraq's delicate sectarian balance has come under growingstrain from the civil war in neighboring Syria, where mainlySunni Muslim rebels are fighting to overthrow a leader backed byShi'ite Iran.

Both Sunnis and Shi'ites have crossed into Syria from Iraqto fight on opposite sides of the conflict.

Al Qaeda's Iraqi and Syrian branches merged earlier thisyear to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which hasclaimed responsibility for attacks on both sides of the border.

Suicide bombings are the hallmark of al Qaeda.

Several other attacks in recent weeks also suggest thatShi'ite militias, which have so far largely refrained fromretaliating, may once again be resorting to violence.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in acts of violencesince the start of the year, according to monitoring group IraqBody Count.

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