MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
Iraq is where we begin this hour, with two stories about the violence that is a fact of life for the people of Baghdad. We're going to hear about one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods, a place where gunshots and explosions echo through the streets, where Shiites and Sunnis are found dead every day, and where residents are taking up arms and forming militias. First, we're going to hear about the bombing of a Shiite mosque today. At least 71 people were killed and well over 100 wounded in that attack. NPR's JJ Sutherland has details from Baghdad.
JJ SUTHERLAND reporting:
It was three o'clock, and worshippers were pouring out of the Shiite Buratha mosque in northern Baghdad following afternoon prayers. A woman, or a man dressed in woman's clothing, there are conflicting reports, detonated a suicide belt in the crowd. As the panicked people raced back into the mosque, two more bombers went with them. They blew themselves up inside the packed building. Bodies were loaded into trucks, and the wounded were raced to five different hospitals. A call went out for Baghdadis to donate blood.
The imam of the mosque, Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, is a senior member of one of the main Shiite political parties. Ever since the attack on a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, tit-for-tat killings have brought Iraq to the brink, some say over it, of civil war. Every day, dozens of bodies, some Sunni, some Shia, are found in the streets of Baghdad. Most are bound hand and foot, blindfolded and shot in the head. Yesterday a car bomb went off in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, killing at least 10 people.
The violence comes as Iraqi politicians continue to bicker over the formation of a new government. Almost four months after the elections in December, no agreement is in sight. The dominant Shiite block nominated the interim prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, to head the government, but Sunnis and Kurds vehemently object to him. And now some leading Shiite politicians are calling on him to step aside to break the deadlock. So far, Jaafari has refused to do so, saying he was chosen in a democratic process and deserves the job. The power vacuum has left an air of uncertainty over the country amid steadily increasing violence.
JJ Sutherland, NPR News, Baghdad.
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