BAGHDAD (AP) – A suicide bomber struck a funeral for a Shiite politician’s nephew yesterday, killing at least 32 mourners, wounding dozens and splattering tombstones with blood – part of a surge of violence as Iraqi leaders try to form a coalition government.
Altogether, 53 people died in yesterday’s attacks, which included two car bombings in Baghdad and a militant ambush on a convoy of 60 oil tanker trucks heading from Iraq’s biggest refinery to the capital.
The funeral bombing in Muqdadiyah, 60 miles north of Baghdad, bore hallmarks of Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq. Politicians said the attack was an attempt to hinder a broad-based government, or force the dominant Shiite alliance into further compromises. Shiites were said to be close to a deal on a coalition with Sunni Arabs and Kurds nearly three weeks after parliamentary elections.
The bomber struck as more than 100 mourners chanted a ritual Islamic prayer, “There is no god but God.” They were at the cemetery to bury a 14-year-old boy a day after he was killed in a failed assassination attempt on his uncle, Ahmed al-Bakka, the director of the local hospital.
“We were walking in the funeral procession when a strange person joined the crowd,” said Amer Khazim, 37. “Suddenly, there was a strong sound and we were turned upside down . – I saw many legs and hands flying all over the place.”
Another mourner, Jabar Thamir, said the crowds had just entered the cemetery alongside the pallbearers.
“Afterward, many people were very scared, while others were busy checking the injured before the arrival of the ambulances,” he said.
Al-Bakka, who was not at the funeral, is the head of the local branch of the Dawa party. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari leads the party, which is a main partner in the country’s largest Shiite political coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance.
A senior Dawa official said such attacks were meant to exert pressure on the United Iraqi Alliance to accept a less than optimal compromise in the formation of the government.
“We expect attacks to increase before the formation of the government,” Ali al-Adib said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that the “horrendous crime” was the latest in a series of increasingly violent attacks after the Dec. 15 elections, and called on Iraqis not to undermine the democratic process.