World News

Three sentenced to death for June Iraq bombing

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi court on Tuesday sentenced three men to death for a bombing in June that killed at least 73 people, an Iraqi judicial official said.

A suicide bomber detonated a truck packed with explosives as worshippers left a crowded Shi’ite Muslim mosque on June 20 in Taza, near Kirkuk, north of Baghdad. Victims included women and children, and the blast flattened dozens of homes nearby.

Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council, put the death toll at 88.

“The Rusafa criminal court sentenced three people to death by hanging for the explosion at Taza in June,” he said.

The men can appeal the sentence. Birqdar said they had carried out the attack, but declined to outline their specific involvement or relationship to the suicide bomber.

A statement from the National Media Center said the suspects confessed to carrying out the attack.

Most similar attacks are attributed to Sunni Islamist insurgents, who view Shi’ites as heretics, and to supporters of Sunni Arab Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party.

Violence has fallen sharply in Iraq in the last two years, but bombings and shootings remain common.

Relatively few convictions for such blasts are handed down, partly due to the high volume of attacks and the lack of experience in modern forensic techniques among Iraqi forces.

The Taza convictions come as Iraq prepares for a March 7 parliamentary election, and as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki struggles to defend his reputation for quelling violence in Iraq after a series of major bombings in Baghdad in recent months.

Reporting by Aseel Kami; Writing by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Louise Ireland