Dozens of Sunnis attending a mosque for Friday prayers have been killed in a suicide attack in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province — the latest sectarian violence to hit the deeply divided country.
The Associated Press says at least 64 people were killed in the suicide bombing, which was followed up by gunmen who attacked the mosque where Sunni tribesmen who had rebuffed cooperation with Islamic State militants were attending Friday prayers.
“Diyala province has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks between IS and Iraqi troops backed by Shia militiamen.
“Friday’s attack took place in a village mosque south of the city of Baquba, about 120km (75 miles) from Baghdad.”
The AP says it was not immediately clear who carried out Friday’s attack but that Sunni lawmakers are blaming it on Shiite “militias.”
Former provincial council member Ismail al-Jibouri tells NOR that there was chaos outside the mosque as gunmen refused to let families take their wounded to hospitals.
NPR’s Peter Kenyon, reporting from Irbil, says the bloodshed further complicates efforts to set aside Iraq’s factional divisions to face the threat posed by Islamic State fighters who have made significant strides in capturing territory from Iraqi security forces in recent months.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Washington strongly condemns the attack.
“The United States stands with the people of Iraq against this violence and will continue to support all Iraqi citizens, from all parts of the country, as they work to root out violent extremists from any sector of society and promote a religiously tolerant, diverse, and unified country, as envisioned in the Iraqi Constitution,” Harf said.