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Iraqis hold funeral processions for loved ones killed in suicide attack at Baghdad mosque
BAGHDAD (AP) ' Weeping relatives and friends held funeral processions Monday for worshippers killed in a suicide bombing inside the Iraqi capital's largest Sunni mosque.
One of the funerals was for a father and his 5-year-old son.
Sunday night's bombing inside the Um al-Qura mosque killed 29 people, including a Sunni lawmaker. Thirty-eight others were injured.
Wrapped with blankets, victims' caskets were carried on minibuses through Baghdad's streets Monday while women wailed and beat their chests.
At the mosque, in the Sunni-dominated western Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliya, blood-soaked prayer mats could be seen among the wreckage. Bits of flesh mixed with blood pooled on the ground.
The attack hit Sunnis who were praying in a special service during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which ends Tuesday. It demonstrates anew that security is uncertain as U.S. forces prepare to leave by Dec. 31, and shows the extent to which militants want to extend violence. Iraqi political leaders are weighing whether to ask some U.S. troops to stay beyond Dec. 31.
Under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, Iraq's Shiite majority was persecuted and repressed. Shiites took power after his ouster, stoking Sunni resentment. A 2006 attack on a Shiite shrine in the Sunni city of Samarra escalated widespread sectarian violence in Iraq and nearly ignited a nationwide civil war.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday's bombing, but suicide attacks generally are a hallmark of al-Qaida, which is dominated by Sunnis. Intelligence officials have speculated that al-Qaida will do almost anything to re-ignite sectarian violence, but the group recently had focused on attacking Iraqi security forces and the government to prove how unstable Iraq remains.
In a statement early Monday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Iraqis to stand strong against terrorists and "pursue them wherever they are."
"Solidarity and unity, and standing as one line behind the army and the police, are the only way to eliminate this danger, which does not differentiate between the Iraqis and targets all of us," al-Maliki said.
The security at the mosque's his Sunday is provided by the government-supported Sunni Endowment, which is headquartered there. At least one Iraqi security official raised the possibility that the bomber had inside help.
Sheik Ahmed Abdul Gafur al-Samarraie, the head of Sunni Endowment, agreed Sunday that was a possibility and said the group would investigate how the bomber got inside the mosque, where an estimated 200 people were praying. He said this is the first time such a security breach had occurred, and said guards did not suspect the bomber because he had a broken hand that was bandaged.
Al-Samarraie said the bomber exploded just a few feet (meters) from him, and called himself the likely target. He blamed al-Qaida.