The explosion ripped through a mosque packed with worshippers marking the first day of the holiest Muslim month
A suicide car bomber today drove at a mosque south of Baghdad as Shiites were marking the start of the holy month of Ramadan and brought part of the structure crashing down, killing at least 24, police said. The death toll could rise sharply as a roof had caved in and people were being dug out of the rubble in the darkness, they said. At least 59 others were wounded in the blast at Hilla, 100km south of the capital.
The detonation shot fire through the mosque walls and sent bodies and limbs flying into the street, where flags had been hung to celebrate Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, during which observant believers fast from dawn to dusk. The wail of ambulances rang in the streets for more than an hour as medics tried to evacuate the wounded. Shi'ite worshippers, celebrating the start of Ramadan a day after Sunni Muslims, gathered at dusk; the bomber then drove up to the main entrance of the mosque and detonated explosives.
The terrorist attack came on a day when Iraqi politicians moved to quell sectarian tensions by reversing a controversial decision that would have made it harder for Iraq's draft constitution to be defeated in a national referendum Oct. 15.
The attack came five days after a car bomb exploded in a crowded Hilla market, killing 10 people, including three women and two children in Hilla. Hilla, the capital of Babil province, lies on one of Iraq's sectarian fault lines, with a large Shi'ite population living among Sunni Arabs, some of whom were encouraged to settle there under the rule of Saddam Hussein.
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