Suicide bombers target Baghdad mosque, killing at least 24

BAGHDAD (AP) - Two suicide bombers blew themselves up inside and near a Shi'ite mosque in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 24 people and wounding 52, Iraqi officials said.

The coordinated blasts are the latest in a string of attacks that has hit Iraq, reviving fears the country is headed back towards the widespread sectarian bloodshed that pushed it to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

Two police officers said the first bomber detonated his explosives at a security checkpoint near the mosque in Baghdad's northern Qahira neighbourhood in an apparent attempt to distract the authorities. The district is a middle-class, Shi'ite-majority neighbourhood.

Amid the commotion, a second bomber slipped into the mosque and blew himself up while worshippers were performing midday prayers, according to police.

A medical officer in a nearby hospital confirmed the casualties. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to media.

Violence has surged in Iraq in recent months, along with sectarian and political tensions. Insurgents frequently attack Shi'ites deemed by Sunni extremists as infidels and non-Muslims.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suicide bombings and attacks against Shi'ite worshippers are frequently the work of al-Qaeda's Iraq arm.

The bloodshed roiling Iraq has risen to levels not seen since 2008. Nearly 2,000 have been killed since the start of April, including more than 220 this month.

On Sunday, a wave of apparently coordinated bombings and a shooting killed at least 51 people. Fifteen people were killed in bomb attacks on Monday, including one caused by a suicide bomber who set off his explosives-laden belt among a group of policemen in Fallujah, west of Baghdad.