By LAUREN FRAYER, Associated Press Writer 1 minute ago
Iraqis gather at the damaged Khillani mosque, a main Shiite mosque in central Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, June 19, 2007. A truck bomb struck a Shiite mosque Tuesday in central Baghdad, killing 75 people and wounding more than 200, even as about 10,000 U.S. soldiers northeast of the capital used heavily armored Stryker and Bradley fighting vehicles to battle their way into an al-Qaida sanctuary. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
A truck bomb struck a Shiite mosque Tuesday in central Baghdad, killing 78 people and wounding more than 200, even as about 10,000 U.S. soldiers northeast of the capital used heavily armored Stryker and Bradley fighting vehicles to battle their way into an al-Qaida sanctuary.
The troops, under cover of attack helicopters, killed at least 22 insurgents in the offensive, the U.S. military said.
The thunderous explosion at the Khulani mosque in the capital’s busy commercial area of Sinak sent smoke billowing over concrete buildings, nearly a week after a bombing brought down the twin minarets of a revered Shiite shrine in the northern city of Samarra and two days after officials lifted a curfew aimed at preventing retaliatory violence from that attack.
Gunfire erupted after the blast, which police said occurred in a parking lot near the mosque, causing the outer wall and a building just inside it to crumble.
Police and hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution, said at least 78 people were killed and 218 were wounded, adding that the toll could rise as bodies were pulled from the debris.
One officer said the explosives-packed truck was loaded with fans and air coolers to avoid arousing the suspicions of security forces guarding the surrounding area, which is full of shops selling electrical appliances.
Six of those killed lived in a house behind the mosque that also collapsed, the officer said, adding that 20 cars were burned and 25 shops were damaged.
The mosque’s imam, Sheik Saleh al-Haidari, said it was a truck bomb and the explosion hit worshippers as they left afternoon prayers.
“This attack was planned and carried out by sick souls, damaging the mosque’s outer wall and collapsing my office and the room above it,” al-Haidari told The Associated Press by telephone.
“There are number of bodies being pulled from the rubble and a number of worshippers were killed or injured,” he said, adding that he was not inside the mosque when the blast occurred.
The Khulani mosque is named after a revered Shiite figure who, according to Shiite tradition, was one of four deputies anointed by the Imam Mohammed al-Mahdi, who disappeared in the 9th century and will return to restore justice to humanity.