Bombings targeting pilgrims heading to Karbala leave 36 dead

Weekend bombings in the Baghdad area killed at least 36 people, just days ahead of major Shia religious commemorations that face significant danger from militants, security and medical officials said.

A car bomb targeting Shia pilgrims killed 12 people in Baghdad on Sunday, police and hospital sources said.

In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged truck at the checkpoint leading to southern Baghdad, killing at least 20 people and wounding at least 53 on Saturday.

The truck blew up on Baghdad’s Palestine Street near a tent serving water and tea to pilgrims, hundreds of thousands of whom will travel to Karbala, south of Baghdad, for the Ashura commemorations, which peak on Tuesday.

Thousands of tents serving refreshments to pilgrims across the capital, and the main route to Karbala, the shrine city where Imam Hussein is buried, passes through the checkpoint that was bombed on Saturday.

Security officials said the suicide bombing was the only attack in the area, while a medical official said a car bomb also hit shops in nearby Yusifiyah also contributed to the toll.

Pilgrims taking part in Ashura commemorations, which marks the death of Imam Hussein, one of the most revered figures in Shia Islam, have been targeted in attacks that have killed dozens in past years.

Last year, a triple attack on the pilgrims during the tenth day of Ashura processions, which marks the climax of the commemoration, killed 41 people.

An estimated 20 million people visited Karbala during the 40th day of Ashura in December 2013, making it the world’s largest peaceful gathering of people in one place for a single event.

This year’s march to Karbala is set to be more dangerous than most, with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – which considers Shiites heretics and frequently attacks them – in control of territories along the way and of large areas of Iraq.

Source: Al-Akhbar English

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