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Shoe Bomber Kills 13 At Iraq Mosque

A shoe bomber blew himself up inside an important Shiite mosque during Friday prayers, killing at least 13 people and wounding 28, as violence persisted in the capital despite a massive security operation aimed at restoring order.

The imam of the Buratha mosque in northern Baghdad, a leading politician and deputy with the governing Shiite coalition who often spoke out against the late terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, blamed al Qaeda in Iraq for the attack.

Late Friday, Iraqi leaders condemned any attacks on places of worship and called on the security forces, already in a crackdown mode, to be more vigilant than they already are, reports CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan.

The security operation in Baghdad has imposed a driving ban during Friday prayers to prevent suicide car bomb attacks, as well as a curfew. About 75,000 troops are in the streets of the capital.

"They were targeting me for the second time and the prayers also," said the imam, Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, in an interview with The Associated Press.

It was the second time the Buratha mosque has been hit in just over two months. It also was attacked during Friday prayers on April 7, when four suicide bombers, including a woman, killed 85 worshippers as they left the mosque after the main weekly service.

The U.S. military blamed that attack on al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda in Iraq leader who was killed June 7 in a U.S. air strike. The group issued a statement Tuesday vowing to avenge al-Zarqawi's death and threatening horrific attacks "in the coming days."

Al-Sagheer, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance, said al-Qaeda in Iraq had threatened to kill him in an Internet posting earlier this week.

He said the group accused him of being behind death squads targeting Palestinians living in Baghdad. According to al-Sagheer, the April attack had been preceded by a similar posting.

"Al Qaeda is trying to restore some respect after the killing of al-Zarqawi by targeting a leading Shiite cleric, but they will fail," he said.

Al-Sagheer said the explosives were inside a worshipper's shoes, adding that the bomber blew himself up when confronted by the guards as they began searching those with shoes beside them in the mosque.

b>In other recent developments:

  • A major Iraqi insurgent figure says the U.S. killing of the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was a "great loss," but one that will strengthen the militants' determination, according to an audio tape broadcast by Al-Jazeera on Friday. The pan-Arab satellite channel said the tape bears the voice of Abu Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, the head of the Mujahedeen Shura Council, which groups five Iraqi insurgent organizations including al-Qaida in Iraq.
  • U.S. special operations forces fed some Iraqi detainees only bread and water for up to 17 days, used unapproved interrogation practices such as sleep deprivation and loud music and stripped at least one prisoner, according to a Pentagon report on incidents dating to 2003 and 2004.
  • The Army general investigating whether military personnel tried to cover up any part of the alleged massacre of up to two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha late last year has completed a voluminous report on the incident. Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell sent his report to Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking commander in Iraq, U.S. military officials announced Friday. No information about his findings was provided.
  • The U.S has said Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian with ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, has taken over from al-Zarqawi as head of al Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Masri apparently is the man that the terrorist group identified in a Web posting last week as its new leader, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, a nom de guerre, the U.S. military said.
  • The Senate Thursday sent President Bush an emergency spending bill meeting his funding requests for America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and aid to Gulf Coast hurricane victims. The 98-1 vote on the $94.5 billion House-Senate compromise legislation gave much-needed funds to support U.S. troops overseas. Most of the money $66 billion goes to the Pentagon for military operations overseas.
  • Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has floated the idea of offering limited amnesty to some insurgents, which could include the pardon of some militants who attacked U.S. troops, reports CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan. This idea does not sit will with everyone, especially Thursday, when the Pentagon has announced that the death toll of U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq has reached 2,500 since the war began in 2003.

    A mortar barrage struck a commercial area near the Taji air base in the northern Baghdad suburb of Saaba al-Bour, killing at least two people and wounding 16, police Lt. Mohammed Khayoun said.

    Gunmen also killed a Sunni Arab cleric and leading representative of the influential Association of Muslim Scholars in a drive-by shooting in the southern city of Basra.

    Youssif al-Hassan and a bodyguard were killed near the Basra Grand Mosque where he preaches, police Capt. Mushtaq Tali said. Al-Hassan had welcomed a state of emergency imposed on the formerly peaceful city last month by the Shiite prime minister.

    The streets of Baghdad were largely empty of cars due to a four-hour driving ban supposed to prevent violence during traditional Islamic prayers held every Friday. There also is a curfew from 8:30 p.m. until dawn, and a weapons ban.

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