'Women' bombers kill 25 Shi'ite pilgrims in Baghdad

Three suicide bombers, believed to be women, killed 25 Shi’ite pilgrims on Monday as they headed to a holy shrine in Baghdad for a major religious ceremony that has been marred by bloodshed in the past.

It was the first of three attacks in Iraq, where another 15 people were killed in bombings in the northern oil hub of Kirkuk and the city of Baquba, security officials said.

Among the dead in the Baghdad bombings were women and children, said security and hospital officials, adding that about 70 other people were wounded.

The bombers struck in the Karrada district of central Baghdad as pilgrims were making their way on foot towards Kadhimiyah in the north of the Iraqi capital, site of a Shi’ite festival on Tuesday.

“At least 25 people were killed and more than 70 were wounded in three suicide attacks, probably by females suicide bombers,” a police official said.

A doctor at Ibn al-Nafess hospital, one of several dealing with casualties from the bombings, said he had received the bodies of 20 dead and 74 injured.

On Sunday, gunmen shot dead seven pilgrims in Madin, a town south of Baghdad, despite tight security for Tuesday’s ceremony honouring revered imam Mussa Kadhim that is expected to attract up to one million worshippers.

Pilgrims from around the country are flocking to the Iraqi capital to mourn the revered imam who died 12 centuries ago, prompting authorities to step up security amid concerns over attacks.

Systematic violence—suicide bombings and sectarian killings—have dropped sharply in the capital since a peak in 2006, but Iraqi police are worried about a wave of attacks in the city of six million people.

Major General Kassam Atta, spokesperson for city security, told reporters that his force had information regarding the possibility of attacks targeting pilgrims during this year’s festival.

“We ask people to help in all ways with our security forces,” Atta said, adding that up to one million people were expected.

Checks have been particularly stringent amid what appears to be growing trend of using women in insurgent bombings, which have claimed hundreds of lives across the volatile country.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a suicide bomber blew himself in a crowd of people who were protesting a controversial provincial election law, killing 11 and wounding more than 50, police said.

The legislation for planned provincial elections has drawn fire from Kurds who are worried that any election could recalibrate ownership of valuable oil resources claimed both by Kurds and Arabs.

Another three men and a woman were killed in a roadside bombing near Baquba, north of Baghdad, police said.

Last week, eight people were killed when a female suicide bomber blew herself up as a Sahwa (Awakening) patrol passed by in Baquba, the capital of Diyala province which remains one of the most dangerous places in the country.

Awakening groups began in the western province of Anbar when Sunni tribal leaders turned on their former al-Qaeda allies in 2006, and since then similar bodies have sprung up across Iraq, supported and paid for by the US military.

In Baghdad, streets have been blocked to vehicle traffic and an extra 5 000 police and soldiers have been deployed in Kadhimiyah, where Kadhim is said to be buried, and has in the past been the site of attacks.

On August 31 2005, at least 965 people died in a stampede at a Baghdad bridge seen as a symbol of Kadhim’s death, triggered by rumours that a suicide bomber was in their midst and following a mortar attack on the mosque that killed seven people.

Shi’ites will congregate at the Kadhimiyah mosque to mourn Khadim’s death, believed to have been poisoned in Baghdad in the late eighth century by agents of the then-ruling Sunni caliph, Harun al-Rashid.

The gathering is a time for prayer and celebration with relatives and friends, but with the hundreds of thousands of people expected, it also poses a threat to the security gains made in Baghdad over the past six months. - AFP


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