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Suicide bomber kills 29 at Baghdad mosque

BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber blew himself up inside Baghdad's largest Sunni mosque last night, killing 29 people during prayers, a shocking strike on a place of worship similar to the one that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war five years ago.

Security officials said parliament lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawi, a Sunni, was among the dead in the 9:40 p.m. attack.

Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Baghdad's military operations command, confirmed the bombing happened inside the blue-domed Um al-Qura mosque during prayers in the western Baghdad neighborhood of al-Jamiaah.

Two security officials and medics at two Baghdad hospitals put the casualty toll at 29 dead and 38 wounded.

Al-Moussawi, however, put the death toll at only six and said there was no significant damage to the mosque. Conflicting death tolls are common immediately after attacks in Iraq.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but suicide attacks generally are a hallmark of al-Qaida, which is dominated by Sunnis.

Intelligence officials have speculated that al-Qaida will do almost anything to reignite sectarian violence, but the group recently had focused on attacking Iraqi security forces and the government to prove how unstable Iraq remains.

"I heard something like a very severe wind storm, with smoke and darkness, and shots by the guards," said a shaken Mohammad Mustafa, who was in the mosque and was hit in the hand by shrapnel.

"How could this occur?" he said. "Is al-Qaida able to carry out their acts against worshipers? How did this breach happen?"

The attack hit Sunnis who were praying in a special service during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which ends Tuesday.

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