[QODLink]
Middle East
Blast kills Iraqi Shia pilgrims in Basra
Suicide attack on worshipers on their way to a mosque leaves at least 53 dead in country's south, local police say.
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2012 16:16

A suicide attack has killed at least 53 Shia Muslim pilgrims and left another 137 wounded in Iraq's southern city of Basra, local police say.

The attacker, wearing a suicide vest, was said to have been disguised as a policeman when he targeted pilgrims who were passing through a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city on Saturday.

The pilgrims were heading towards a Shia mosque in the busy al-Zubair district, west of Basra city. The mosque is home to a seventh century shrine.

The attacks on Shia Muslim worshippers have been blamed on al-Qaeda linked forces.

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said Iraqi security forces have "been on high alert for attacks of this kind" surrounding the Arbaeen rituals, commemorating the death of Imam al-Hussayn.

The attack is the lastest in a wave of car bombings and suicide attacks targeting Shia pilgrims on their way to Karbala for Arbaeen rituals, a religious rite that occurs 40 days after the day of Ashura.

The Arbaeen pilgrimage, one of the largest in the world, has drawn 12 million congregants to Karbala itself.

With the pilgrimage becoming a major focus of attacks, our correspondent said, some pilgrims "wrap themselves in white shrouds" - the traditional burial attire for Muslims - along the way.

Iraqi security forces have stationed 30,000 police and soldiers outside Karbala city and along the roads leading to it.

Iraq has experienced political tension along ethnic and sectarian lines after the Shia-dominated cabinet of Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant last month for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's highest-ranking Sunni politician.

Hashemi, who is currently living in Iraq's Kurdish north, was charged with terrorism as the final US troops were leaving the nation.

Basra was also the site a protest last week to denounce a decision by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to shelter Hashemi.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Featured
Pro-Russia leaders' election in Ukraine's east shows bloody conflict is far from a peaceful resolution.
Critics challenge Canberra's move to refuse visas for West Africans in Ebola-besieged countries.
A key issue for Hispanics is the estimated 11.3 million immigrants in the US without papers who face deportation.
In 1970, only two mosques existed in the country, but now more than 200 offer sanctuary to Japan's Muslims.
Hundreds of the country's reporters eke out a living by finding news - then burying it for a price.