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Iraqi Militants Plant Bomb In Shi'ite Holy Book

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Iraqi militants hollowed out an ornate Shi'ite Muslim holy book, stuffed it with TNT, and planted it inside a Baghdad shrine, but the bomb was defused before it exploded, police have said.

Iraqi police discovered the rigged book on September 12 in the Khadimiyah shrine, a major Shi'ite holy site in Baghdad, after worshippers heard a suspicious ringing sound from the mobile-phone detonator inside the book, a richly decorated edition of a sacred Shi'ite text called the "Keys to Paradise."

After the bomb failed to go off, a scan of the book showed the bomb-filled cavity and experts came in to defuse it.

"It had about 500 grams of highly explosive material and contained hundreds of metal ball bearings in order to maximize casualties amongst pilgrims to the shrine," Major General Jihad al-Jabiri, head of an Interior Ministry unit that investigates explosions, told state-run Al-Iraqiyah TV.

The Khadimiyah shrine, a revered site for Shi'ite Muslims, has been a favorite target for Sunni Islamist Al-Qaeda, who see Shi'a as heretics, and by loyalists to the former regime of Sunni Arab ruler Saddam Hussein, who object to the fact that Iraq has been run by majority Shi'a since his ouster.

In April, suicide bombers killed 60 people by the shrine.

U.S. and Iraqi officials say Al-Qaeda is trying to reignite the sectarian conflict that nearly tore the country asunder in 2006-07, but they have so far failed to provoke revenge killings.

In July, Iraq's first religious festival in Khadimiyah since U.S. troops pulled out of cities a month earlier was mostly peaceful, despite bloody attacks on the site in past years.

Police said the book was left in a corner of the shine reserved for women, suggesting the bomber was female.