Iraqi and US officials fear reprisals after bombs kill almost 80 Shiites
Iraqi and US officials sought ways to stop the cycle of sectarian violence from spiralling out of control Saturday a day after three suicide bombers killed at least 79 people and wounded many others at a Shiite mosque.
The explosions heightened fears that the country was disintegrating into civil war along religious and ethnic lines. "We condemn this most recent bombing of a mosque in Baghdad. There was significant loss of life," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, according to AFP. "This was clearly perpetrated by those who wish to divide Iraq, who wish to encourage sectarian strife. And it was perpetrated by individuals who clearly have no respect for religion."
He said the US government would work with Iraqi authorities to try to "prevent similar types of attack" despite escalating violence against the Shiite community.
The bombing was also condemned by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the attack was "another attempt to derail the political process and fuel a sectarian conflict".
The mosque's imam, or prayer leader, Sheikh Jalaluddin al-Saghir, is an MP with the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament.
Immediately after the attack, Iraqi authorities appealed on state television for blood donations. The channel announced 79 people died and another 164 injured in the blasts.
Iraq's powerful Shiite politician Abdel Aziz al-Hakim of Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main party in the Shiite alliance, blamed the attack on Saddam Hussein loyalists. "These mobs of Saddamists do not care about innocent lives and they are perpetrating genocide against Shiites," Hakim said.
US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad urged "all Iraqis to exercise restraint in the wake of this tragedy, to come together to fight terror, to continue to resist the provocation to sectarian violence."
Sunni political and religious associations also condemned the blast.