Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bomber strikes Iraq Shia pilgrims


At least 25 people have been killed and dozens more injured by a suicide bomber targeting Shia pilgrims in the Iraqi town of Iskandiriya, south of Baghdad.

An official told the BBC that a bomber wearing a suicide vest had detonated his device in a crowd. At least 40 people were injured in the attack.

The town is on the way to the Shia city of Karbala, which is hosting a religious festival.

The bomb comes despite a recent lull following a US troop increase.

Police told the BBC the bomber walked into a comfort station for pilgrims and then detonated a device.

This was the second attack on the pilgrims on Sunday.

The first occurred in Baghdad, in the southern district of Doura.

Three were killed and 49 wounded when militants attacked passing pilgrims.

A roadside bomb was detonated with gunmen then opening fire.

Iskandariya, in Babil province, was a flashpoint for years, but correspondents say violence had recently declined there.

The US said this was due to a Sunni alliance siding with the US against al-Qaeda in Iraq, as well as the influx of US troops.

The religious festival of Arbaeen marks the end of 40 days of mourning for Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussein, who was killed along with his family in 681, by the Muslim ruler of Arabia, Yazid.

Millions of Shia pilgrims are expected in Karbala for the festival this week - many prefer to walk believing the effort will bring them greater spiritual reward.

Security has been tightened compared to previous years, with tanks protecting the pilgrims, in addition to police.

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