BAGHDAD- A suicide attacker blew up a bomb-packed car at a Shia foundation's headquarters in Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 25 people and sparking fears of sectarian strife at a time of political crisis.
Monday's first attack struck at 11:00 am (0800 GMT) outside the Shia endowment in Baab al-Muadham, in central Baghdad, and left at least 25 people dead and more than 65 wounded, medical officials said. The bombing completely destroyed the endowment headquarters, its deputy chief, Sami al-Massudi, told AFP. "We do not accuse anyone, but we call on the Iraqi people and especially on the sons of our religion to bury the strife because there is a plan to launch a civil war between the people, and between the Iraqi sects," Massudi said. He said the Shia endowment had received threats in recent days because of a dispute over a shrine. Massudi and his aides had produced documents that attributed the management of the shrine to the Shias endowment, sparking tensions with its Sunni counterpart. "The issue of the shrine is a legal and constitutional issue, and it is our right, because it is a shrine related to the Shias," Massudi said.
AFP journalists near the site of the attack said security forces cordoned off the area and barred anyone from approaching, while emergency workers searched for survivors in the remains of the endowment headquarters.
Several cars and nearby buildings were badly damaged by the explosion, and helicopters hovered overhead.
One man threw his spectacles to the ground and yelled: "They are all dead! They are all dead!"
An interior ministry official said it was a roadside bomb that exploded near the building. The attack did not cause any casualties, both said.
"We reject and condemn this criminal, cowardly, fanatical attack," Sunni endowment spokesman Faris al-Mehdawi said, referring to the attack against the Shia endowment.
"These attacks aim to create divisions between the Iraqi people," he said. "There are dirty hands that are playing on sectarianism, and trying to bring the country back to the years of violence."
The spike in attacks coincides with a ratcheting up of months-long tensions in which several political parties have called for the prime minister to be unseated.
"Maliki and Allawi are fighting over the government, and we are the victims," said Mohammed, who owns a restaurant opposite the Shia foundation headquarters, referring to Iyad Allawi, a rival of the prime minister.
"Come and see the houses that were destroyed on the heads of children," he said, shirtless and covered in blood. "In my two hands, I carried children from under the rubble."