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Iraq mosque blast kills 5
( 2004-01-10 10:24) (Agencies)

An explosion ripped through worshippers streaming from a Shiite mosque Friday, killing five people and wounding dozens, and police defused a car bomb outside another nearby mosque.

The apparently coordinated attacks came amid rising tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Elsewhere, U.S. soldiers kicked open doors early Friday and dragged out men in a raid aimed at Saddam loyalists in his hometown of Tikrit. U.S. officials said they detained 30 men including 14 suspected of orchestrating, financing or carrying out attacks on American soldiers. Among them was a man believed to have detonated a bomb that killed a female soldier from Texas.

In Baghdad, rockets struck a hotel used by Western contract workers, shattering windows but causing no casualties, and a homemade bomb exploded on a street leading to a U.S. military base, wounding an Iraqi civilian and a child.

After the bombing in Baqouba, a religiously mixed city 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, wailing women tried to cover body parts as the wounded walked in a daze. A man screamed in anguish as he knelt before two bodies.

Two hours later, people were still picking up remains. Blood oozed down the street, where worshippers who couldn't fit into the small Sadiq Mohammed mosque had set up prayer mats for Islam's holy day.

The explosion was caused by a gas cylinder rigged with an explosive, U.S. officials said. Hospital officials and the Army's 4th Infantry Division, which is responsible for security in Baqouba, said five people were killed, including the bomber, and 37 wounded.

There were conflicting reports about the attack. Master Sgt. Robert Cargie said the attacker tried to gain entry to the mosque but was turned away, apparently by guards.

"He walked a short distance away and detonated an improvised explosive device attached to a propane tank, killing himself," Cargie said.

Raad Sadek, who built and owns the mosque, said his brother saw the cylinder leaning against the door of the mosque, became suspicious and moved it to the middle of the street, where there was a large crater.

Suspicions had been raised because of the discovery 90 minutes earlier of the car bomb at the other Shiite mosque. It was rigged with four artillery shells, 330 pounds of TNT and a remote control device, the 4th ID said.

Faulty wiring prevented it from going off, according to a police investigator who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was neutralized by a police bomb squad, the military said.

Division spokeswoman Maj. Josslyn Aberle called it an "attempted terrorist attack."

Baqouba is in an area dominated by Muslims of Saddam's Sunni sect, but several people said communal relations were good and couples from the two groups often intermarry.

Nationwide, tensions between Sunnis and Shiites have risen following the ouster of Saddam, who for decades subjugated the Shiite majority. Shiites, who form an estimated 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, seek political power they feel is their due.

Sunnis fear they will be marginalized, and many of them suspect the Americans are discreetly promoting Shiite domination a charge U.S. officials deny. Suspicious Sunnis even assume an American role in sectarian tensions.

Mainstream leaders of both communities have tried to prevent an outbreak of sectarian violence.

Tensions in this diverse nation have not been limited to the two religious communities.

Recent weeks also have brought increased violence in the northern city of Kirkuk, where Sunni Arab and ethnic Turkic communities fear domination by ethnic Kurds. On Friday, a Kurd walking in an Arab neighborhood was shot and killed, said Police Chief Torhan Youssef.

Earlier, he said coalition soldiers mistakenly killed two Iraqi police officers who were walking around with their AK-47 assault rifles after dark but were not wearing identity badges.

Kurds dominate the north and have been pressing to include Kirkuk in a Switzerland-sized area that they have ruled autonomously since after the 1991 Gulf War.

In the Tikrit raid, U.S. soldiers dragged men and teenage boys from their homes, covering their heads with hoods and making them lie face down on the ground on an icy and drizzly night.

"I do not support Saddam! I do not support Saddam!" one man pleaded in Arabic.

Soldiers searched homes where women were still in their nightclothes or asleep an intrusion that has outraged many in this conservative Arab culture.

"Why do you come here? What have we done?" asked the daughter of one man who was detained. "My father has done nothing."

Among those detained was a man suspected of planting a roadside bomb that killed Pfc. Analaura Esparza Gutierrez, 21, of Houston, on Oct. 1.

In other developments:

_ U.S. troops from the 1st Infantry Division captured 12 insurgents Friday and seized 50 rocket-propelled grenades after a firefight with rebels near Habbaniyah west of Baghdad, the military said.

_ Troops of the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment raided a business in Husayba along the Syrian border, arresting 17 people and confiscating a large amount of weapons and military equipment, the U.S. command said.

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