Suicide bomber kills 29 at Baghdad funeral
A SUICIDE bomber killed at least 29 people yesterday by driving an explosives-laden vehicle into a Shia funeral procession in Baghdad, heightening fears that Iraq is in the grip of sectarian conflict.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in the capital's predominately Shia district of Zafraniya.
More than 60 people were wounded in the bombing, which came days after al-Qa'ida's Iraqi affiliate pledged to step up attacks on the country's Shia majority. Most of the dead were mourners who had gathered for the funeral of a Shia estate agent, killed with his wife and son the previous day when gunmen stormed into his shop. That attack was also assumed to have sectarian overtones.
Over 200 people have been killed since US troops withdrew from Iraq at the end of last year, 87 of them this week, according to news agency tallies.
The surge in violence comes against the backdrop of a political crisis that has seen Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shia prime minister, take steps to neutralise some of the most powerful Sunni Arab challengers in his coalition government.
On Mr Maliki's orders, police attempted to arrest Tareq al-Hashemi, the popular vice-president, on suspicion of running a death squad. Mr Hashemi has since fled to relative safety in the Kurdish north.
Militants linked to al-Qa'ida have taken advantage of Sunni anger and a security vacuum left by the departure of US forces to launch a series of bombings, prompting reprisal attacks by Shia militias. (©Daily Telegraph, London)