BAGHDAD The plaza in front of Baghdad's famous Abu Hanifa mosque in the Adhamiya district has lately been a place of joyous celebration and worship. On Sunday evening it was a scene of terror, as a suicide bomber struck a crowded street in front of the mosque.
The police and witnesses said the blast killed 15 people and wounded 29 others. Among the dead was Faruq Abdul Sattar, a deputy commander of Adhamiya's Sunni Awakening council, the U.S.-backed local force that guards the neighborhood, which is a Sunni stronghold.
Witnesses said that the bomber, a man, may have been riding a motorcycle that was parked about 65 feet from a traffic light on the street.
Sattar, a popular figure in the neighborhood who was known by the nickname Abu Omar, was standing on the median that divided the street with a group of other Awakening Council members when the bomb went off, witnesses said.
An Awakening Council official confirmed that the explosives were detonated by a male suicide bomber. The victims included other Awakening Council members and some civilians.
Adhamiya, once the site of fierce fighting between insurgents and American and Iraqi forces, has been quieter in recent months. Last spring, thousands of people, drawn by the reduced levels of violence, gathered at the Abu Hanifa mosque for the first time in years to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.
Earlier on Sunday, two journalists from the Afaq television channel and their driver were wounded by a grenade thrown inside their car near Al Zawra park in Baghdad.
Violence also erupted in Iraq's northern Kurdish autonomous region, where police in Erbil shot and killed two people, one a 14-year-old boy, after a demonstration turned into a riot.