The blast happened in midday prayers at Al-Subeih mosque, in the capital’s eastern New Baghdad neighbourhood, said police Col Ahmed Aboud. Witnesses said a car parked outside the building since the morning exploded. One section of the mosque collapsed, and frantic worshippers in blood-spattered clothes searched through the rubble for loved ones.
Body parts littered the ground. One man clutched a child’s foot, shaking and weeping.
“I was inside the mosque when the explosion happened, and I saw many dead and injured,” said another worshipper, grocery store owner Abdelallah Faraj.
“This is a cowardly and savage act that aims to create conflict among Iraqis.”
Police sealed off the area. The US military had no immediate comment. Shi’ite mosques and funerals have become a frequent target of Sunni-led insurgents. In February, suicide bombers attacked a number of them during the Shi’ite commemoration of Ashoura, killing nearly 100 people.
The violence was part of a surge of dramatic attacks that have caused heavy casualties in recent weeks, ending a relative lull since January 30 elections.
In northern Iraq, a roadside bomb exploded near a US Army patrol, killing one soldier and wounding another, the military said.
As of yesterday, at least 1,564 members of the US military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
At least six other people, including three foreign civilians, were killed in additional bombings and shootings in Ramadi and Baghdad on Thursday.
A militant group claimed responsibility for shooting down a Russian-made helicopter carrying 11 civilians, including six Americans, and released a video purportedly showing insurgents shooting the crash’s lone survivor. Thursday’s chartered flight was believed to be the first civilian aircraft shot down in Iraq since the US-led invasion two years’ ago. The dead included six US bodyguards for US diplomats, three Bulgarian crew and two Fijian security guards, officials said.
A group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq posted a video on the internet purporting to show the shooting of a survivor.