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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-321920 Iraq Bombing (L)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=1/21/05

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=IRAQ / BOMBING (L-ONLY)

NUMBER=2-321920

BYLINE=ALISHA RYU

DATELINE=BAGHDAD

HEADLINE: Car Bomb Kills Shiite Worshippers at Baghdad Mosque

INTRO: A car filled with explosives blew up in front of a Shiite Mosque in Baghdad Friday, killing at least 14 worshippers and wounding more than 40 others. As VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from Baghdad, sectarian tension between Shiite and Sunni Muslims has been rising steadily ahead of Iraqi elections.

TEXT: The car bomb exploded outside the green-domed al-Taf mosque in southwest Baghdad, as Shiite worshippers were leaving after prayers.

The police say several children were among the more than a dozen people killed in the blast.

/// SOUND OF MUSLIM PRAYER CALL, EST. AND FADE ///

The bombing took place on the first day Shiite Muslims in Iraq began celebrating Eid al-Adha, one of Islam's most important holidays. Sunni Muslims here started their celebrations a day earlier.

The split between Shiites and Sunnis dates back centuries and centers on a disagreement over the rightful successor to the prophet Mohammed after his death in 632.

Sectarian tension between Islam's two branches in Iraq has been rising in recent weeks in anticipation of an overwhelming win by the majority Iraqi Shiites at the polls. Shiites make up about 60 percent of the country's 26 million people.

Iraqi Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of the population, but have long been the ruling elite for most of the country's modern history. Fearing a decisive Shiite victory, Sunni Arab militants have vowed to stop the elections.

In addition to numerous attacks on candidates and electoral workers, militants have launched a string of sectarian-motivated attacks in the past month, targeting Shiite mosques, political and religious leaders and party headquarters.

Militants have also disrupted election preparations in several Sunni-dominated provinces. Some moderate Sunni Muslim leaders, who say voter intimidation in Sunni areas will not permit a fair vote, have called for a delay in voting until the security situation improves.

The Bush administration and Iraq's interim government have ruled out a postponement, arguing that a delay would only hand a victory to the insurgents.

The attacks have stoked fears the country could slide into civil war. But Shiite leaders have downplayed the threat, promising that the new government will include its fair share of Sunni representatives. (Signed)

NEB/AR/KBK/KL



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