Explosion in Sunni Mosque Possibly a Retaliatory Attack

BAGHDAD -- Suspected Shiite militants in southern Iraq bombed a Sunni mosque Sunday in apparent retaliation for a suicide attack the day before that killed 11 people, police said.

The explosives blew a hole in the minaret of the Sunni mosque in Haswa, a predominantly Shiite city 48 kilometers south of Baghdad, but the mosque was empty and no casualties were reported.

The attack came one day after a man driving an explosives-laden truck carrying boxes of new shoes struck a Shiite mosque in Haswa, destroying nearby stores as well as part of the shrine and its minaret, which rose above piles of concrete, broken chairs and other rubble.

Police said 45 people also were wounded in that attack -- one of a series of suicide bombings that killed a total of 47 people as insurgents appeared to be stepping up their campaign against an U.S.-led security crackdown trying to stop such tit-for-tat attacks between Sunnis and Shiites.

On March 14, U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell expressed optimism about the operation, but urged patience and cautioned that "high-profile" car bombings, which rose to a high of 77 in February, could "start the whole cycle of violence again."

Meanwhile, the Islamic State in Iraq, an insurgent umbrella group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, purportedly claimed responsibility for three suicide bombings Saturday near the Anbar province city of Qaim, near the Syrian border, saying in an Internet statement that 45 policemen were killed and 48 were wounded.

The military also said Iraqi police had detained a man Friday as he was trying to detonate an explosives-laden truck containing five 3,785-liter barrels of chlorine near a police station and a water treatment plant in the Sunni city of Ramadi.