KIRKUK — Eid Al-Adha holiday began in Iraq Tuesday with a bomb ripping through a crowd of worshipers as they left a Sunni mosque, killing 15 people.
Three children, a policeman and an army officer were among the dead from the blast in the northern city of Kirkuk, which also wounded 26 people, police and a doctor said.
Bodies, their clothes covered in blood, were placed in the back of a small police pickup truck to be taken away, an AFP journalist at the scene said. Angry and grieving people railed against those who carried out the attack, shouting, "God take revenge on those who are evil!"
Worshiper Khalaf Al-Obaidi said he narrowly avoided the blast because he had gone to greet one of his brothers inside the mosque instead of leaving.
"Then the bomb exploded," Obaidi said.
"You look and you see your friend or your brother or your relatives (on the ground). Even an infidel would not do this," he said. "God willing, there will be security and safety for this country and its poor people."
As with various other religious occasions in Iraq, observance differs between Sunnis and Shiites. Eid Al-Adha begins for Sunnis on Tuesday this year, while most Shiites consider the following day to be the first of the holiday.
"We ask God to keep the ghost of sectarian strife... and civil war, on which those who sold their soul to the devil are insisting, away from our country," Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said in pre-recorded remarks broadcast on Tuesday.
"Our region today is in a storm of violence moved by sectarianism and terrorists, and our country is in the heart of this storm," he said.
On Monday, UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov had called for unity in Iraq on the occasion of the holiday. "On this Eid and at this crucial time, I would like to plead for unity and understanding among all the Iraqis and their political, religious, and civil leaders," Mladenov said in a statement. — AFP