The attack occurred in Tuz Khurmatu, a mixed community approximately 170 kilometres north of Baghdad.

Police said a car bomber blew himself up outside the Al-Rasul Al-Aadham mosque, as worshippers emerged from Friday prayers. They said they had arrested another man about to carry out an attack nearby.

“We arrested a Saudi who was wearing a belt of explosives,” said Lieutenant
Colonel Hussein Ali Rashid.

Meanwhile in East Baghdad’s Shi’ite district gunmen killed two more Shiite labourers and wounded 15 in a drive-by shooting, gunning down a transport ministry employee as they made their getaway.

In other violence, in Haswa , 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near an Iraqi police patrol, killing three officers and wounding four.

The bloodshed follows a call by Al-Qaeda’s frontman in Iraq, Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi, for “total war” against the Shiites, a threat that religious leaders from both communities warn could spark a sectarian war.

Zarqawi’s extremist Sunni group has claimed responsibility for a wave of
bombings in Baghdad, including one earlier in the week that killed 112 Shiite labourers as they waited for work

However, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the rising civilian
death toll is causing internal problems for insurgent groups and alienating
their support base.

“They are now in a situation in which they’re killing an awful lot of civilians and they are killing Muslims,” she said in a discussion with the editorial board at the US network NBC.

Iraq’s main Sunni Arab religious authority, the Committee of Muslim
Scholars, condemned the call for total war against the majority Shiite
community whose representatives now control the government.

“What Zarqawi said is very dangerous and plays into the hands of the
occupier who wants to split up the country and spark a sectarian war,” the
committee said.

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