Iraqi police and hospital officials said yesterday the death toll in a spate of bombings on Shiite pilgrims on Thursday had risen to 56.
Iraqi police and soldiers lined main Baghdad roads yesterday morning as thousands of pilgrims headed to attend annual religious rituals in the holy Shiite city of Karbala, 80km south of the capital.
Authorities in Karbala said the attacks — twin suicide car bombings — also wounded an estimated 180, including about 25 members of the security forces.
The attacks were launched by three suicide bombers who blew up their cars near security checkpoints on at least two roads to Karbala.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but the methods and the targets were typical of al-Qaeda and other Sunni-dominated extremist groups.
A roadside bomb detonated among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims at the al-Rasheed vegetable market in southern Baghdad earlier on Thursday, killing one and wounding nine.
Another such blast in a central Iraqi town killed one and injured three, an interior ministry official said.
A suicide bomber blew up an explosives-filled car at a police headquarters in Baqubah at about 10am on Thursday, killing two policemen and a female journalist in the third attack on Iraqi security forces in three days.
The attack wounded 30 people, according to Ahmed Alwan, a doctor at Baqubah hospital.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blamed the Karbala attacks on the takfiri, an Islamic term for apostates, but used by the Maliki to mean anti-Shiite al-Qaeda militants.
“Once again the takfiri terrorists and criminals add a new page to their criminal record, killing women, children and elderly men, who were pilgrims of Hussein,” he said in a statement.
“They seek to fuel divisions and terrorize citizens,” the prime minister said, adding that the perpetrators would be “brought to justice and punished.”
The groups of pilgrims were walking to Karbala as part of ceremonies to commemorate Arbaeen, which marks 40 days since the anniversary of the death of the 7th century Imam Hussein, who is revered among Shiites.
More than 1 million pilgrims are expected to visit Karbala in the coming days for Arbaeen, which is set to climax on Tuesday.
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