Iraqi interior ministry building attacked, at least 11 killed

A suicide bomber drove a car filled with explosives into the gate of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad's Karrada district Saturday, killing at least 11 people, and wounding 24.

Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters
Iraqi Sunni lawmaker Hamed al-Mutlaq (centre, l.) speaks during a news conference about Friday's attack on a village mosque, in Baghdad August 23. Early Saturday afternoon a suicide bomber attacked Iraq's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, killing at least 11.

A suicide bomber hit an interior ministry building in central Baghdad and killed at least 11 people on Saturday, officials said, as an investigation was underway into a deadly attack on a Sunni mosque that has heightened sectarian tension as the country undergoes a fragile political transition.

The suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden car into the gate of the intelligence headquarters in Karrada district in the early afternoon, killing six civilians and five security personnel, a police officer said. He added that 24 other people were wounded.

A medical official confirmed causality figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief the media.

The attacks came hours after parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri said that a committee of security officials and lawmakers would announce the findings of an investigation into Friday's attack against a village mosque in Diyala province in two days' time.

It remained unclear whether the attack in the village of Imam Wais was carried out by Shiite militiamen or insurgents from the Islamic State group who have been advancing into mixed Sunni-Shiite areas in Diyala province and have been known to kill fellow Sunni Muslims who refuse to submit to their harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

Since early this year, Iraq has faced an onslaught by the Islamic State extremist group and allied Sunni militants who have taken control of areas in the country's west and north. The crisis has worsened in June, when the group seized Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul and subsequently declared an Islamic state, or caliphate, in territory under its control in both Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Local security officials in Diyala said the attack began with a suicide bombing near the mosque entrance, followed by gunmen who stormed the building and opened fire on worshippers. At least 64 people were killed, including four Shiite militiamen who stumbled upon bombs planted by the militants as they rushed to the scene with security forces.

Sunni lawmakers offered a different account, saying Shiite militiamen had launched a reprisal attack on the mosque after their convoy was bombed.

The attack led two major Sunni parliamentary blocs to pull out of talks on forming a new government. The move creates a major hurdle for Shiite prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi as he struggles to reach out to Sunnis to form a government by Sept. 10 that can confront the Islamic State extremists.

In a press conference, al-Jabouri did not say who might have been behind the attack, saying only that such violence was "carried out by the same hands (of those) who want to derail the process of building the government."

Jabouri heads one of the blocs that suspended talks, but he declined to comment on the move at the press conference, saying he was there in his capacity as parliament speaker.

Imam Wais village is located about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad in the ethnically and religiously mixed Diyala province, which saw heavy fighting at the height of Iraq's sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007.

Firat al-Tamimi, a Diyala lawmaker, said there are conflicting accounts surrounding Friday's events. He confirmed, however, that there was a bombing near the mosque prior to the assault on worshippers.

Iraqi President Fouad Massoum, a Kurd, condemned Friday's attack and appealed "to all for self-restraint and to act wisely." He promised the incident would be "properly investigated and its perpetrators held to account."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he's "deeply concerned about the impact such acts of sectarian violence will have on the already grave security situation and on the political process." The European Union said the "heinous crime" should not stand in the way of government formation and urged Iraqis to unite against violence.

Associated Press writers Vivian Salama and Murtada Faraj in Baghdad and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.