A suicide bomber exploded in mosque packed with Shiite Muslim worshipers marking the first day of Ramadan on Wednesday evening, killing 36 people and wounding 95, Iraqi hospital officials and police said.
The Ibn Nama Hilli Mosque in Hillah, south of Baghdad, was full of mourners who had gathered to remember a restaurant owner slain Monday by insurgents. There were conflicting reports about whether the bomber was in a car or on foot, but several witnesses said a man walked into the mosque carrying explosives around his chest and in a bag.
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.
Ahmed Tahir, a 30-year-old neighbor of the slain restaurant owner, said he had attended the ceremony, finished his prayers and walked out into the street, where he met a friend. As they stood chatting, the mosque exploded.
"This is how the terrorists inaugurated this holy month of Ramadan," Tahir said. "But God will not keep silent after this. God's revenge will be severe."
The blood bath 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, reports La Times.