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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 21:39 GMT
Dozens die in Iraq suicide attack
People help carry bodies away from scene of Mosul blast
Local people helped transport the bodies away from the mosque
At least 47 people have been killed by a suicide bomber who blew himself up at a Shia funeral service in the restive northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Medical officials said at least 90 people were also wounded in the attack, which happened in a poor neighbourhood.

The bomber struck as mourners crowded into a hall next to the mosque.

Iraqi officials have accused Sunni Muslim insurgents of attacking Shia targets in order to spark a civil war in the religiously divided country.

After the cloud of smoke and dust dispersed we saw the scattered bodies of the fallen
Adnan al-Bayati

The attack was at the Shahidain mosque which is surrounded by cheap housing in Mosul's central Tameem neighbourhood.

Witnesses described seeing a ball of fire and hearing a huge explosion inside the courtyard of the mosque, which is still under construction.

"After the cloud of smoke and dust dispersed we saw the scattered bodies of the fallen and smelled gunpowder," Adnan al-Bayati, a 45-year-old witness, is quoted as saying.

The force of the blast shattered car windows and left pools of blood on the ground.

Upsurge in violence

Mosul, an Arab-majority city in the mainly Kurdish northern region, has been the scene of fierce clashes between insurgents and US forces and Iraqi government forces since November.

Iraq map showing Mosul
Tensions have risen between the three main groups in the area - Sunni Arabs, Shias and Kurds.

The attack in Mosul comes at the end of two days of violence in which a several were killed and dozens of dead bodies found.

Gunmen shot dead the chief of a central Baghdad police station and at least two other Iraqi policemen during ambushes earlier on Thursday.

On Wednesday a suicide car bomb attack reportedly carried out by a group linked to al-Qaeda killed at least three people and injured more than 20 people in the capital.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says recent months have seen many provocative attacks on Shia targets and gatherings by the insurgents, who have their roots in the Sunni community.

He says one of the aims is clearly to trigger sectarian clashes, but Shia religious leaders have called on their followers not to be drawn into communal conflict.

So far they have been remarkably successful in restraining them, our correspondent adds.

In a separate development, reports from Baghdad say the Shia grouping that won the majority vote in Iraq's elections is poised to form the next government after striking a deal with Kurdish parties.

The United Iraqi Alliance, backed by the Shia clergy, is likely to name a new cabinet next week, according to officials on both sides quoted by Associated Press.

Disturbing scenes as bombers target Shia funeral


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