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In the dust of a suicide bomber

After bomb destroys mosque, Taza residents look for answers amid rubble.

Dozens of women and men began searching for their loved ones. Soon, mechanical shovels and bulldozers arrived. The primitive equipment is all that's available — the iron teeth of the shovels would kill any of those still surviving.

Another woman in a black abaya was just sitting; waiting for a sign to give her hope that her brother, his eight children and wife were alive. I heard shouts — the shovel operators had found the body of a dead baby. The woman stood — it was the body of her 5-month-old niece.

As officials began to arrive, Yashar, the high school student began asking: "Why were we attached, because were are Turkmens?" He added, "Somebody is trying to terrorize us before the coming census and general elections."

Another said: "Maybe somebody is planning to ignite another sectarian war in Iraq,” adding that Sunni and Shiite were brothers.

Settin Ergec, a member of the Iraqi Parliament and the president of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, Iraq's main Turkmen political party, called for an immediate investigation and for the Iraqi government to protect Turkmen towns and cities.

“It is not the first time; many Turkmen towns have been attacked: Tel Afer, Tuz Khormatu, Dakok, Amirli and others," he said.

As officials announced three days of mourning, ambulances returned back from Kirkuk to pick up more of the wounded. One of the mechanical shovels was pressed into service to dig a mass grave.

According to the police sources, most of the dead and wounded were women and children — many of them killed when their flimsy houses collapsed in the explosion. Two burned bodies were thrown into a nearby field by the force of the explosion.

On Monday, rescue operations to retrieve the bodies were continuing. Taza residents say 24 are still missing. Residents began writing the names of their missing loved ones on the rubble of their houses in the hope they might be found.

Many Turkmen political parties, NGOs and families came from Kirkuk bringing food, tents, blankets and other supplies for the dozens of families who lost their houses and all their possessions. A Turkish delegation with the Turkish Red Crescent reached Kirkuk, met the governor, then came to Taza with the Kirkuk branch of the Iraqi Red Crescent to distribute aid. The International Red Cross sent medical equipment to Kirkuk hospitals.

But what people really wanted was to know why innocent civilians were attacked and killed in their homes. No one had an answer.

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