Suicide bombers target Iraq Shi'ites, killing 32

Reuters

By Kareem Raheem

BAGHDAD, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers targetedShi'ite Muslims in Iraq on Saturday, killing at least 32 peopleon the eve of the anniversary of one of their imams' deaths,police and medics said on Saturday.

In the northern city of Mosul, unidentified gunmen shot twoIraqi television journalists dead as they were filming, securitysources said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for either ofthe bombings, but such attacks are the hallmark of SunniIslamist al Qaeda, which views Shi'ites as non-believers and hasbeen regaining momentum this year.

In Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at acheckpoint, killing at least 20 Shi'ite pilgrims on their way tovisit a shrine in the Kadhimiya district, police and medicalsources said.

Earlier on Saturday, another suicide bomber blew himself upinside a cafe in a mainly Shi'ite town of Balad, 80 km (50miles) north of Baghdad, killing 12 people. The cafe wastargeted in an almost identical bombing 40 days ago.

"I received the corpse of my cousin. It was completelycharred and difficult to identify," said Abdullah al-Baldawi,whose relative was killed in the cafe bombing.

Relations between Islam's two main denominations have comeunder acute strain from the conflict in Syria, which has drawnfighters from Iraq and the wider Middle East into a sectarianproxy war.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in violence acrossthe country this year, according to monitoring group Iraq BodyCount, reversing a decline in sectarian bloodshed that hadclimaxed in 2006-07.

It was not clear who was behind the killing of thejournalists, who worked for Iraqi television channel al-SharqiyaNews, which is often critical of the Shi'ite-led government andis popular among the country's Sunni minority.

"They shot them in the chest and head, killing theminstantly," said a security source who declined to be named.

Iraq is considered one of the most dangerous countries forjournalists. According to the Baghdad-based Journalism FreedomsObservatory, 261 journalists have been killed and 46 kidnappedsince 2003, the year of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Mosul, capital of the predominantly Sunni province ofNineveh, is a stronghold for Islamist and other insurgents.

A journalist from Mosul said insurgents in the city changedtheir tactics and targets from time to time, and may now haveset their sights on journalists, after previous spates ofattacks against traffic police and mayors.

"I will leave the city of Mosul and live in the outskirtsuntil things calm down," said the journalist on condition ofanonymity.

The Journalists' Syndicate denounced the killings as a"criminal act", demanding the authorities track down theperpetrators and do more to protect the media.

Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi condemned the killings:"It aims to muzzle the voice of people, the voice ofrighteousness".

Iraq's Sunni community has grown increasingly resentful of agovernment it accuses of marginalising their sect since comingto power after the U.S.-led invasion that vanquished SaddamHussein in 2003.

Sunnis launched street protests in December after Shi'itePrime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sought to arrest a senior Sunnipolitician. A bloody raid by security forces on a protest campin April touched off a violent backlash by Sunni militants.

The United Nations Mission in Iraq said nearly 900 civilianswere killed across Iraq in September, raising the death toll sofar this year to well above the total for 2013.

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