Sat, Feb 19, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Iraq mosque blasts kill 21

AFP AND AP , JAKARTA AND BAGHDAD

At least 21 people, including a child, were killed in three attacks against Shiites in Baghdad yesterday as Iraq's majority community began a religious mourning period that last year saw the bloodiest attacks since the war.

In the deadliest blast, 17 people died and 23 were wounded when a suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt blew himself up in a Shiite mosque in the southern Baghdad district of Dura.

Extremist Sunni Arab insurgents have pledged to target the country's Shiite majority which swept to victory in the Jan. 30 elections and is set to take power for the first time in the country's history.

"The attack was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt at the Kazimain mosque in Abu Dishr near Dura," a police officer said.

"I had just begun Friday prayers when an enormous explosion rocked the building," said the mosque's imam, Sheikh Malek Kinani.

Twin suicide bombers killed at least one person at the Ali al-Baya mosque, another Shiite place of worship in western Baghdad, as worshippers were about to leave weekly Friday prayers, hospital and police sources said.

In the third blast, three people, including a child, were killed and five wounded when a mortar shell apparently targeting a police station landed outside a cafe in northwest Baghdad's Shula district.

Last week, another anti-Shiite bomb attack on a mosque before Friday prayers killed 14 people in the town of Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad.

Shiites are marking Tasua, the first of two days of mourning for the revered Imam Hussein which will culminate on Saturday with the religious festival of Ashura.

Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and the third Imam in Shiite Islam, was killed in 680 AD during the battle of Karbala.

Meanwhile, two Indonesian journalists are missing in Iraq and a witness reported seeing them stopped by armed men, Indonesia's foreign ministry said yesterday, but declined to say if the men were abducted.

The reporters were working for Indonesia's Metro TV, a 24-hour cable network, and went missing Tuesday. A witness said he saw their car stopped near the Iraqi town of Ramadi by armed men in Iraqi military uniforms, ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said.

The government is sending a team to Iraq to seek additional information, he said.

Ramadi, about 110km west of Baghdad, has been a center of insurgent activity in Iraq and the scene of frequent clashes between US forces, their Iraqi allies and militants.

"The car, driver and the two journalists have been taken to an unknown location. However, I will not use the word abduction yet," he told reporters.

"We are trying to ascertain the whereabouts of these two reporters and establish contact with them," he said. "It was reported that the people who stopped them were wearing Iraqi military uniforms."

The Al-Arabiya television station, the Arabic-language satellite network, reported that the two journalists had been kidnapped but did not provide any further details.

Sasha Yusharyahya, a spokeswoman for Metro TV, identified the female reporter as Meutya Hafid and the cameraman as Budianto. She said the station last had contact with the pair on Tuesday afternoon and was working with the foreign ministry to learn their fate.

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