BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – A car bomb exploded Saturday near a market outside of Baghdad killing at least 13 people and wounding 21, while Iraqi police have arrested four people in connection with the suicide bombing of two mosques with one man beubg an apparent third suicide bomber, police said.
The Saturday morning explosion occurred near the Diyala Bridge area just southeast of the Iraqi capital as dozens of people were shopping at the popular market, police Col. Nouri Ashour said. The dead included five women, he added.
On Friday, two suicide bombers wandered into the Sheik Murad mosque and the Grand Mosque in the border town of Khanaqin during noon prayers and detonated explosives strapped to their bodies, police and survivors said.
Reported death tolls ranged from 76, provided by Kurdish officials, to at least 100, provided by police. Hospital officials said Friday that 74 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the largely Kurdish town, about 140 kilometers (90 miles) northeast of Baghdad.
It was the deadliest attack since Sept. 29, when three suicide car bombers struck in the mostly Shiite town of Balad just north of Baghdad, killing at least 99 people.
A security officer in Khanaqin, who asked not to be identified beacuse of the nature of his job, said four people were arrested following the blasts, three were strangers who came from outside the town and the fourth was a third suicide bomber who was found near the scene.
Khanaqin police had received information from the authorities in nearby Baqouba about a possible suicide bomber in the town, but it came just minutes before the attacks, he added.
The blast ripped down part of the roof of the Grand Mosque and heavily damaged the other place of worship. At sunset, dozens of people were still searching the rubble for missing family members and friends. Others collected shredded copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
One of the survivors, Omar Saleh, said he was on his knees bowing in prayer when the bomb exploded at the Grand Mosque.
"The roof fell on us and the place was filled with dead bodies," Saleh, 73, said from his hospital bed.
American soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division sent medical specialists and supplies to the town, located about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Iranian border. The attack came just hours after two car bombs exploded outside the Hamra hotel Friday, in the second attack against a compound housing foreign journalists in the Iraqi capital in less than a month.
The attack began at 8:12 a.m. when a white van exploded along the concrete blast wall protecting the compound, blowing a hole in the barrier. Less than a minute later, a water tanker packed with explosives plowed through the breach in an apparent bid to reach the hotel buildings.
But the driver, apparently blocked by smoke and debris, detonated his vehicle just inside the barrier, destroying several nearby homes and blowing out windows in the hotel.
Eight Iraqis were killed and at least 43 people were injured, officials said. The tactics in the Hamra attack were similar to those employed in the Oct. 24 triple vehicle assault on the Palestine Hotel, where The Associated Press, Fox News and other organizations live and work.
The latest attacks in Khanaqin and Baghdad have brought to at least 1,617 the number of Iraqis killed since the Shiite-led government took power April 28, according to an Associated Press count. At least 3,429 have been injured.
The attacks against the Shiite worshippers occurred amid rising tensions between Iraq”s majority Shiite and minority Sunni communities, which escalated after last weekend”s discovery of 173 malnourished detainees, some bearing signs of torture, in a Ministry of Interior building in Baghdad seized by American soldiers.
Most of the prisoners are believed to have been Sunni Arabs, and the discovery lent credence to allegations of abuse leveled by Sunni Arabs against troops controlled by the Shiite-led Interior Ministry.
The predominately Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party denounced the attacks and said they were "conducted by those who are fishing in troubled water to inflame secterian tensions bewteen Iraqis." The party statement suggested that Shiites were responsible for the attack and were attempting to frame Sunnis.
On Friday, Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, endorsed calls for an international investigation "in light of the apparently systemic nature and magnitude of that problem."
"I urge authorities to consider calling for an international inquiry," said Arbour, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor who issued the indictments against former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who is currently on trial. "There is much international concern and interest in the situation in Iraq," Arbour said in Geneva.