Female Suicide Bomber Targets Iraqi Soccer Fans

A female suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt in front of a popular cafe where soccer fans were celebrating Iraq's 2-1 win over China in a World Cup qualifying game, injuring 34 people.

It happened in the mainly Kurdish and Shiite Turkomen city of Qara Tappah, about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad.

The attack wounded seven policemen and 27 civilians, according to police Col. Azad Issa. The town's top administrator, Serwan Shukir, said more casualties were prevented because a policeman spotted the detonator and screamed at the crowd to disperse.

Shukir said the woman detonated her explosives belt as she was walking toward a crowd emerging from the cafe.

Elsewhere, Iraqis danced in the streets or in the backs of pickup trucks and fired guns in the air to welcome their national soccer team's victory.

In Baghdad, dozens of people — most young men and children — waved Iraqi flags and chanted "Long live Iraq" and "Bring on the cup, bring it on," a traditional soccer song.

The sound of car horns mingled with the gunfire and people clapped as they leaned out of their windows.

Iraq beat China 2-1 with a first-half goal by Emad Ridha and the winner by Nashat Akram midway through the second half.

The celebrations were reminiscent on a smaller scale of the joy brought on by Iraq's run to victory in the prestigious 2007 Asian Cup.

Mohammed Haider, a 36-year-old Oil Ministry employee, said the victory provided a welcome respite from fears of violence and concerns about power shortages and other troubles that persist despite recent security gains.

"Soccer is the only thing that unites the Iraqi people. We needed this soccer victory to remind us that we are still one nation," he said.

Hospital officials said at least 17 people were wounded in celebratory gunfire in Baghdad after many fans ignored official warnings against it.

But the shooting was muted in Baghdad's Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City, compared to past soccer victories, due to an ongoing military operation that has led to an increased presence of Iraqi security forces.

"Despite our misery in Sadr City, we came out in the streets to celebrate the victory," said Ibrahim Karim, a 44-year-old engineer. "We are happy now because we have forgotten for a while our sad situation."