/ 2 October 2008

Bombings mar Ramadan celebrations in Baghdad

Iraqi policeman Ali Abdul Hussein should have been celebrating the end of Ramadan. Instead, he wept outside a Baghdad mosque for friends killed by a suicide bombing on Thursday that he tried to stop.

Abdul Hussein (33) sobbed at the entrance to the Shi’ite mosque of al-Rasool in southern Baghdad’s middle-class Jadida area where the morning Ramadan festivities were shattered by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt.

”I saw a man rushing to the checkpoint just outside the mosque,” Abdul Hussein said. ”I noticed his belt and shouted to my colleagues to stop the man. I also ran towards him but two colleagues ahead of me stopped the man.”

Just then, the bomber detonated the explosives, killing the two policemen and sending Abdul Hussein flying. He was wounded in the leg, but returned to the mosque after taking the victims to hospital.

”I had to remove my uniform because it was covered in blood,” he said. ”If my two friends had not stopped the bomber outside, there would have been many more killed at the mosque.”

Fellow policeman Abu Ali said he and his colleagues had been in a cheerful mood after the end of the fasting month.

”We had blocked the road for cars, but the attacker had gone walking,” he said, manning a roadblock a few hundred yards from the mosque. The attacker slipped through another nearby checkpoint.

Witnesses said hundreds of worshippers had packed the mosque situated among commercial buildings and three-storey apartment blocks in the commercial and residential quarter.

Security officials said 12 people were killed and another 30 wounded in the Thursday morning attack.

Despite the bombing, the faithful still poured into the mosque later the same day as Shi’ite Muslims in the country celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting holy month.

Also on Thursday, a separate car bomb attack killed eight people, including four Iraqi soldiers, outside another Shi’ite mosque in the neighbouring Zafaraniyah quarter.

The twin bombings shattered the celebratory mood and caused massive traffic jams in the capital where motorists have to stop at numerous checkpoints manned by United States and Iraqi forces. — AFP