Thousands of citizens turned out in Babel province on Sunday (October 2nd) to demonstrate against a bloody terrorist attack that struck a funeral service in the city of Hilla last week.
On Friday (September 30th), a car bomb exploded near the Prophet Ayoub Mosque, where a funeral service was being held, killing 25 and injuring 37 others.
Provincial officials accused al-Qaeda of carrying out the attack.
"Al-Qaeda carried out one of the ugliest terrorist attacks in the province, killing civilians and children without any reason," said Maj. Gen. Fadhil Raddad, commander of the Babel police. Raddad pledged to launch large-scale operations to search for the perpetrators.
"They shall not hear words from us this time. Action shall proceed," he told mawtani.com. "We shall pursue them and wipe them out regardless of what it may cost, and they should know they will not get away with their deed.''
Capt. Mahmoud Abdullah of Hilla city police said the car bomb was loaded with more than 500 kilograms of explosives, in addition to small metal pebbles and incendiary chemicals "to kill the largest number of innocent people".
"The entire place was demolished and no one came out without an injury," he said.
Haider Zanbour, chairman of the defence and security committee in the Babel Provincial Council, said security forces in the province have opened a broad investigation into the attack.
"The strike was carried out in a way that indicates there is a scheme being prepared by terrorist groups to drown the country in the midst of war and sectarian crisis, but they seem unaware that Iraqis have surpassed this phase and discovered the ploy that al-Qaeda and its allies are trying to undertake in Iraq," Zanbour said.
"Al-Qaeda turned this funeral service into scores of funeral services. We shall support Iraqi forces in their operations against the terrorists because terrorists are trying to undermine the security situation in any way possible, but we will prevent them from achieving that.''
The demonstrators chanted slogans denouncing terrorism and carried signs reading, "No to terror" and "Iraq is one people, one future".
"The city is very angry," said one of the demonstrators, Abbas al-Khafajy, 54. "Citizens want to see the perpetrators of the attack in the hands of Iraqi forces and before Iraqi courts."
"Time will not be long before they are arrested, and the residents will not calm down until then," he said.
Mohammad Hadi Wagga, 42, a government employee in Hilla, said, "I lost my dearest friend in the attack. He was killed for no fault of his own. The terrorists must pay the price as soon as possible."
"The terrorists will continue to kill and destroy, and we shall continue to fight them, but we are certain that the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi people with them will triumph in the end, and that day is not far.''