Iraq: 16 killed in bomb explosion at Sunni mosque

By BUSHRA JUHI | June 3, 2011 | 7:58 AM EDT

A man chants slogans as he holds a poster depicting four detained activists with the words

BAGHDAD (AP) — A bomb targeting worshippers attending Friday prayers at a Sunni mosque north of Baghdad killed 16 people and wounded dozens more, the top medical official in the province said.

It was the second major attack in as many days in Iraq and highlighted the difficulties Iraqi security forces still face in protecting their own people as American forces prepare to leave by the end of the year.

Sixteen dead were brought to the main hospital in Tikrit, said the medical official, Dr. Raeid Ibrahim. He said an additional 54 people were wounded, indicating that the death toll could rise. Tikrit is the home town of deposed ruler Saddam Hussein, and many of his relatives and associates live there.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing.

One of the injured was a provincial council member, Mohammed Fadhil, who was in the operating room, Ibrahim said. Mohammed al-Asi, a media official from the governor's office, confirmed that Fadhil was injured in the blast.

A media adviser to the Salahuddin province governor, Ali al-Samarraie, said ambulances were still bringing casualties to the hospital.

Tikrit is 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

There were conflicting accounts of whether the blast was caused by a suicide bomber.

A police officer in Tikrit said a suicide bomber walked into the crowd of worshippers inside the mosque as prayers were starting and blew himself up. But al-Samarraie said initial reports indicated that it was a bomb planted inside the building.

The mosque is located inside a compound of palaces built during deposed ruler Saddam's era.

On Thursday night, series of bombings ripped through the capital of Iraq's western Anbar province, killing nine people, Iraqi officials said.