Iraq attacks kill one Iraqi, wound 15 Afghan pilgrims

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, January 9, 2012

Shia pilgrims were again the target of deadly attacks in Iraq on Monday, killing one Iraqi and wounding 15 Afghans ahead of religious commemorations, officials said.

A roadside bomb in the town of Owairij, just south of Baghdad, targeting devotees walking to the shrine city of Karbala, 110 kilometers from the capital, killed one pilgrim and wounded at least nine, defense and interior ministry officials said.

In addition, on the outskirts of the central city of Hilla, a car bomb wounded 15 Afghan pilgrims, three of them seriously, police and medics said.

The festival of Arbaeen later this month takes place 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the killing of Imam Hussein, one of Shia Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the Caliph Yazid in 680 AD.

As part of the ceremonies, Shia pilgrims walk to Karbala from across Iraq. Devotees also descend on the city from around the world.

The latest attack comes after deadly bombings targeting Shia Muslims last Thursday killed at least 68 people in one of the bloodiest episodes of violence since August.

Terrorist attacks have accelerated in the weeks following the withdrawal of the last US occupation troops in December.

A series of blasts last Wednesday targeting the homes of police officers in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, killed two children while they slept. Al-Qaeda militants were suspected to have been behind the attacks.

A spate of bombings killed 72 people in mainly Shia areas of Baghdad a few days after the political crisis began last month, deepening fears of a return to sectarian strife in Iraq, which teetered on the brink of civil war in 2006-7.

The attacks in recent weeks have targeted Sunni tribes opposed to Al-Qaeda, security personnel, as well as Shia neighborhoods, suggesting that extremists are attempting to exploit the current political crisis and inflame sectarian strife.

The threat of violence is heightened by the involvement of regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, each vying for greater influence in Iraq.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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