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Middle East
Shia pilgrims killed in Iraq blasts
Two suicide bomb attacks near the holy city of of Karbala leave at least 45 people dead and scores injured.
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2011 22:13 GMT
The blasts occurred on two routes being used by pilgrims travelling to the holy city Karbala [Reuters]

At least 45 people have been killed in twin suicide bomb attacks apparently targeting Shia Muslim pilgrims near the Iraqi city of Karbala. 

More than 170 people were injured in the blasts, with the death toll likely to rise.

The first attack struck Karbala's northern outskirts, while the second blast occurred about 15km south of the city.

Mohammed Hamid al-Mussawi, the head of the Karbala provincial council, said: "Two cars parked outside the checkpoints to the city exploded at the same time."

The blasts occurred on two routes being used by pilgrims travelling to the city to take part in the Shia festival of Arbaeen, which marks 40 days since the anniversary of the death of the 7th century Imam Hussein.

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, blamed the Karbala attacks on "takfiris," a term for apostates but used by the premier to mean suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters.

Earlier on Thursday, a roadside bomb was detonated among a crowd of Shia pilgrims at the Al-Rasheed vegetable market in southern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding nine, while another such blast in a central Iraqi town killed one and injured three, an interior ministry official told the AFP news agency.

'Massive blast'

In another incident, a suicide bomber blew up an explosives-packed car outside a police office in Baquba, central Iraq. Police say three people were killed including a traffic policeman.

The bomber detonated his payload at around 10:00 am local time (0700 GMT) on Thursday, just a few blocks away from the site of a large suicide car bomb attack against another security agency on Wednesday.

"I heard a massive blast and suddenly there was a rain of shrapnel falling from the sky," said Murtada Aiseh, a 47-year-old government employee.

Although violence in Iraq has dropped sharply since its high point three years ago, the country is still plagued by small-scale attacks that have kept the nation on edge and raised doubts about the capabilities of its security forces.

Source:
Agencies
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