Lethal Baghdad blast raises sectarian tensions in Iraq

A SUICIDE bomber detonated an explosive-packed car outside a Shi’ite Muslim office in central Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 26 people and wounding more than 190 in an attack bearing the hallmarks of Iraq’s al-Qaeda affiliate.

The bombing on a Shi’ite religious office comes at a sensitive time, with the country’s fractious Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs locked in a crisis that threatens to unravel their power-sharing deal as Shi’ite prime minister Nuri al-Malik faces a vote of confidence.

The attacker targeted the Shi’ite Endowment – a government-run body that manages Shi’ite religious and cultural sites, police said.

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“It was a powerful explosion, dust and smoke covered the area. At first I couldn’t see anything, but then I heard screaming women and children,” said police officer Ahmed Hassan.

The Shi’ite Endowment has been caught up in a dispute with the rival Sunni Endowment over control of a Shi’ite shrine in the Sunni stronghold of Samarra.

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