BAGHDAD, Iraq – Bombs and mortars struck mosques on both sides of the sectarian divide in the Baghdad area Friday, the latest in a week of attacks that have killed more than 250 people.
The deadliest explosion occurred as worshippers were leaving after the main weekly services at a Sunni mosque in northern Baghdad, killing 14 people and wounding five, police said. The attack occurred despite a weekly four hour driving ban starting at 11 a.m. in the capital to prevent car bombs that have frequently targeted Friday prayers.
Earlier Friday, five mortar rounds fell near the Shiite Imam al-Hussein mosque in Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding six, provincial police said.
The strikes against the mosques were the latest in a week of tit-for-tat sectarian attacks that have killed more than 250 people, including 41 Sunnis who were gunned down during a rampage by Shiite militiamen in western Baghdad on Sunday.
Shiite clerics, meanwhile, denounced the Israeli attacks on Lebanon during Friday prayers, while hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated to show solidarity with the Lebanese as fears mounted that violence in the region could spiral out of control.
Thousands of Iraqis also demonstrated in the Shiite district of Sadr City in Baghdad and the southeastern cities of Kut and Amarah, praising the leader of the militant group Hezbollah and denouncing Israel and the United States for attacks against Lebanon. Some protesters said they were ready to fight the Israelis.
"No, no to Israel, no no to America," demonstrators chanted in Sadr City.
"Let everyone understand that we will not stand idle," read one of the banners carried by the demonstrators. "Iraq and Lebanon are calling, enough silence Arabs," read another.
The Iraqi protests came as Israeli warplanes struck Beirut, while Hezbollah fired more rockets at Israeli towns across the border. Police said three people were killed and 55 wounded in the air strikes, raising the death toll to 60 on the third day of fighting.
Israel said it was determined to beat Hezbollah back and deny the militant fighters positions they have held along the border since 2000. Hezbollah began the current conflict Wednesday with a cross-border raid that captured two of Israel's soldiers.
"We condemn the Zionist terrorist offensive against Lebanon that targeted the infrastructure of this country, while Hezbollah hasn't targeted the infrastructure of the Zionists. They targeted military facilities," Sheik Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, representative of Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said in the holy city of Karbala.
Besides those killed in the mosque attacks, at least 34 other violent deaths were reported by police on Friday, including 12 Shiites whose bodies were found buried in a common grave in Tal Afar.
The grisly discovery came after the Iraq army's 2nd brigade arrested six terror suspects Friday afternoon in the town, 93 miles east of the Syrian border or 260 miles northwest of Baghdad.
One of the suspects confessed to killing the 12 civilians and told authorities where they were buried, Brig. Nejim Abdullah said. Relatives identified the victims as Shiites, he said.
In March, U.S. President George W. Bush praised American efforts to stabilize Tal Afar, saying he had "confidence in our strategy" and that success in the city "gives reason for hope for a free Iraq."
Gunmen also attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint on a highway near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, killing 11 soldiers and wounding three.
A taxi driver was killed in a drive-by shooting in the volatile Dora neighborhood in southern Baghdad.
Gunmen in southeastern Baghdad also opened fire on a minivan carrying passengers to the Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing five of them, including a woman and a child.
In a similar attack in western Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on a minivan, wounding three passengers.
An unidentified body dressed in traditional Arab clothing was found shot in the chest and showing signs of torture was found in Aziziyah, 35 miles southeast of Baghdad.
A suicide car bomber struck a police patrol in the northern city of Mosul, killing two civilians and wounding two others, police Col. Abdul-Karim al-Jibouri said.
A Sunni policeman also was shot to death in front of his home in Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, while gunmen in a car killed the bodyguard of a judge elsewhere in the city, he said. Clashes also erupted between gunmen and a police patrol in eastern Mosul, killing one civilian.
Separately, Iraq's national wrestling team pulled out of a tournament in the United Arab Emirates Friday after its coach was killed in an attack in Baghdad, sports reporter Sagban al-Rubaie said, acting as a spokesman for the team.
The Sunni coach, Mohammed Karim Abid Sahib, was seized with one of his wrestlers as they left the sports center to buy some sweets in the northern neighborhood of Kazamiyah, where the team was preparing for the tournament.
He was shot to death while trying to escape; the other wrestler got away, according to police and wrestling officials.