A car bomb exploded yesterday outside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad where worshippers were celebrating a major Muslim holiday, killing at least 14 people and wounding 40, police and hospital officials said -- the latest violence in the lead-up to this month's elections.
The car blew up outside the al-Taf mosque as the faithful finished praying. Shiites at the mosque were celebrating one of Islam's most important holidays, Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice.
The wounded were taken to a nearby hospital where the emergency room was quickly filled with bloodied bodies, the screams of the wounded and worried relatives. Children were among the wounded, doctors said.
Yesterday's blast was the second outside a Shiite mosque in the capital this week and it came a day after a chief terror leader in Iraq berated Shiites in an Internet audio recording that appeared aimed at sowing division in the country.
Shiites are expected to finish on top in the election to the 275-seat national assembly after decades of oppression during the rule of former president Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, and before.
The expectation that Shiites will come to dominance has fuelled tension with the Sunni Arab community, which accounts for about 20 percent of Iraq's population and has been the main source of support for the insurgency gripping the country.
On Thursday, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian allied to al-Qaeda and active in Iraq, told Washington that the war would drag on for "months and years."
In an audio tape posted on the Internet hours before US President George W. Bush was sworn in for his second presidential term, a person identifying himself as Zarqawi said: "The fruits of jihad come after much patience and a lengthy stay in the battlefield ... which could last months and years."
Zarqawi's group has claimed responsibility for many of the most deadly attacks in Iraq over the past year.
Meanwhile, insurgents threatening to kill eight Chinese hostages said in a new videotape they would treat them "mercifully" if China banned all Chinese nationals from entering Iraq.
The Chinese men, who came to Iraq in search of work and were abducted earlier this month, were threatened with death in a tape released by their captors on Tuesday unless Beijing could explain what they were doing in the country.
But in a new tape obtained by reporters, the militants said they would be merciful if China responded to their demands.
"We ask your government to issue a statement forbidding Chinese citizens from entering Iraq and this will be considered as a positive gesture and will make us look mercifully on the detainees," the insurgents said.
In other developments, a Danish intelligence officer and four military policemen have been charged with abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Danish headquarters in southern Iraq, the Danish army said yesterday.
Reserve Captain Annemette Hommel and the four other soldiers could face up to one year in prison if found guilty of breaking military law during interrogations last year, the army said in a statement.
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