Two car bombs have exploded near the holy Shia city of Karbala in southern Iraq, killing 22 mainly Shia pilgrims and wounding 54, an Iraqi official said.
The blasts took place on the road between Karbala and the city of Najaf, Mohammed al-Moussawi, head of the Karbala provincial council, said on Monday.
The bombs were targeting Shia pilgrims visiting Karbala, 80km southwest of Baghdad, two days ahead of the anniversary of Imam Mohammed al-Mehdi's birthday for which several hundred thousand people are expected this week.
The birthday is one of several annual pilgrimages that have evolved into shows of strength for Iraq's majority Shia community since the fall of the late president Saddam Hussein, who curbed such rites.
Al Arabiya targeted
In a seperate incident on Monday, a suicide bomber has detonated an explosives-laden vehicle outside the Baghdad bureau of Al Arabiya television channel, killing at least four people, injuring another 10 and destroying their offices.
"There was a huge explosion that shook the building - all the rooms were damaged," Tareq Maher, a journalist for Al Arabiya, told the channel in a live broadcast after the explosion.
|Iraqi officials warned the Dubai-based channel of threats against it last month [Reuters]
Initial reports said six people were killed in the attack in Baghdad's western Harithya area, but the channel's report put the death tollat four - three security guards and a cleaning lady. A Bangladeshi office assistant was also missing.
Iraqi officials blamed the bombing on al-Qaeda in Iraq, and had warned Al Arabiya of threats against them in June.
The Dubai-based broadcaster has had its offices and staff attacked in Iraq in the past.
A remote-control bomb was planted on the bureau chief's car in September 2008, although he escaped unharmed.
In October 2006, a car bomb outside a previous bureau killed seven people.
Earlier that year, Atwar Bahjat, an Al Arabiya TV presenter, along with two of her colleagues were kidnapped and murdered in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad.