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Iraqis Bury Victims of Suicide Attack

March 11, 2005

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) _ Angry, weeping relatives on Friday buried some of the dozens of people killed a day earlier in a suicide attack in a funeral tent in this northern Iraqi city. Officials and families canceled plans for a mass funeral procession because of fears it, too, would be targeted.

The bloodshed came as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad said they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government.

Hundreds of men, women and children crowded the main hospital in Mosul on Thursday to try to find and identify the 47 dead and more than 100 wounded in Thursday’s blast at a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners.

``I cannot describe the amount of despair I feel,″ said Sher Qassim Mohammed Ali. ``I lost seven of my sons, brothers and cousins. I want to know who carried out this attack ... we will avenge those who did it.″

With a dozen bodies covered in blankets lying in the cold outside a morgue that had run out of space, others screamed: ``This is a crime! This is a crime!″ One man said: ``May God avenge them.″

Shiite mosques and funerals have become a frequent target of Sunni-led insurgents. Last month, suicide bombers attacked a number of them during the Shiite commemoration of Ashoura, killing nearly 100 people.

Mosul has been a hotbed of guerrilla activity and the scene of many bombings, drive-by shootings and assassinations targeting the country’s security services, majority Shiites and people thought to be working with U.S.-led forces.

Family members and politicians agreed there would be no joint funeral in Mosul on Saturday because of the ``fear of another attack like this one,″ said Hamid Zain al-Ali, a member of the Al-Sadr Movement of firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militants rose up against U.S. troops several times in 2004.

Instead, families will hold private funerals across the city, and the Al-Sadr Movement would provide armed guards for each of the tents that would be used.

A similar decision was made on March 1 in Hillah, south of Baghdad, when fears that insurgents would target crowds of Shiite mourners forced authorities to cancel an elaborate funeral procession for some of the 125 people killed in a suicide bombing there.

Al-Ali said that after the decision was made, a mortar round landed near the site where a suicide bomber blew himself up Thursday.

That explosion, in a working class neighborhood of this northern city, destroyed a large tent on a grassy patch in the courtyard of a mosque. Survivors scrambled to get the wounded to a hospital, lugging them to ambulances and cars in blankets or prayer rugs as a strong smell of gunpowder filled the yard.

At first, some mourners thought it was an air strike _ but once they smelled the gunpowder, they said they knew it was a suicide bombing.

Blood was spattered across the grass, car windows were shattered and survivors wailed as corpses were loaded onto the backs of pickup trucks. The body parts that were strewn around the area were believed to be from the bomber.

Dealing with the persistent insurgency will be a main task for a new Iraqi government.

Officials said the deal between the Shiite clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish parties opens the way for naming a Cabinet when Iraq’s democratically elected National Assembly convenes Wednesday.

The Kurds agreed to support the alliance’s candidate for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. In exchange, the alliance will back Jalal Talabani as Iraq’s first-ever Kurdish president. The Kurds will receive one major Cabinet post _ one fewer than they demanded.

``We told the Kurds that if they are going to have the presidency, then they could have only one major Cabinet post because Sunnis should have one major cabinet post,″ said Ali al-Dabaghal, a ranking member of the alliance who has participated in the negotiations.

On the thorny issue of territory, officials in both political camps said the deal provides for the eventual return of 100,000 Kurdish refugees to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, southwest of Mosul.

The government will discuss returning the refugees and redrawing existing Kurdish autonomous regions to include the city, according to the deal. While in power, Saddam Hussein relocated Iraqi Arabs to the region in a bid to secure the oil fields there and brutally expelled the Kurds. Many of the Kurds who want to return to Kirkuk are now living in tent cities.

Officials said any land agreement would be incorporated into the country’s new constitution, which must be drafted by mid-August and approved by referendum two months later.

The Kurds, who comprise about 15 percent of the population, emerged as king makers because they voted in large numbers in the Jan. 30 national elections and won 75 seats in the 275-member National Assembly. The alliance won 140 seats and needs Kurdish support to assemble the two-thirds majority to elect a president, who will then give a mandate to the prime minister.

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Associated Press reporters Rawya Rageh and Qasim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Kirkuk contributed to this report.

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