Suicide bomber kills 31 in Baghdad funeral procession


A SUICIDE bomber in a car packed with explosives attacked a funeral procession in a Shia neighbourhood of Baghdad yesterday, the latest in a wave of attacks on Shias across Iraq since the withdrawal of US troops last month.

There were conflicting reports about the death toll. According to a security official, 31 people died, including eight police officers, and nearly three dozen were wounded. Other officials said the death toll was slightly higher and as many as 60 were wounded.

The attack appeared similar to others mounted by al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent weeks. The group has said it has shifted its attention toward those with close ties to Iran in an effort to push back on the country’s influence in Iraq in the wake of the US withdrawal.

The car bomb was detonated at about 11am, as a procession of family and friends for a real-estate agent fatally shot the day before were walking with the body through the streets of the Zafraniyah neighbourhood in eastern Baghdad.

The explosion rattled windows throughout the city and could be heard several miles away. The acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, said in an interview in Baghdad that the recent increase in al-Qaeda attacks was “just to prove that they are still here”.

There was also violence in Syria yesterday, carried out by government forces. Security forces raided Hama hours before the UN Security Council meets to discuss President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protesters. Explosions rocked the Hamidiyeh neighbourhood, with government forces using heavy machine guns and artillery, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The violence has left at least 25 people dead around Syria today, according to the observatory and Mahmoud Merei, head of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights. “The situation is very tense,” he said, adding that dozens of tanks were deployed in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

The continuing repression in Syria prompted Syrian exiles in Cairo to storm the country’s embassy there. A Syrian diplomat said the protesters had made it into the embassy’s courtyard, destroying parts of the exterior gate and breaking into some administrative offices on the first and second floors. “The Syrian embassy has video cameras of the protesters that security forces and guards could not stop or push away from the embassy.”

Renewed violence in Syria came as Arab and western nations pressed the adoption of a revised draft security council resolution that calls on Mr Assad to transfer power to his deputy. Previous language, which urged Mr Assad to abandon power to pave way for “fair elections”, was replaced with a call for him to hand over “full authority” to his deputy and for the “formation of a national unity government”.

That change aims to mollify Russia, which says western powers are seeking a regime change in Syria, and it could leave Mr Assad nominally as leader even if devoid of powers, according to a UN diplomat. – (New York Times/Reuters/Bloomberg)