Iraq blasts target Shia pilgrims

At least 17 people killed as bombing attacks across the capital target religious tourists.

    Saturday's violence comes a day after 14 Iranian pilgrims were killed when two buses collided in southern Iraq [EPA]

    At least 17 people have been killed in a spate of attacks apparently targeting Shia Muslim pilgrims in Baghdad, officials said.

    More than 100 other people were wounded in the series of explosions across the capital on Saturday, an interior ministry official said.

    "Al-Qaeda is behind the bombings," Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, the Baghdad security spokesman, said. "The targeting of Shia areas is an attempt to ... inflame sectarian conflict."

    In the deadliest attack, two near-simultaneous blasts - caused by a car bomb and a derelict house filled with explosives - took place close to a rest house popular with Iranian religious tourists.

    The explosions in the Kadhimiya desitrict left at least five people dead and eight wounded, the official told AFP news agency.

    "The explosion completely destroyed the two houses and damaged the rest of the houses in the area," a man whose home was damaged in the blasts was quoted as telling the Reuters news agency.

    "We ask the government to focus on checkpoints to prevent the entry of explosives into residential areas."

    Shia pilgrimages

    Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, many of them from Iran and other countries with large Shia Muslim populations, visit the city of Najaf and Iraq's other major Shia shrines in Samarra, Karbala and Baghdad every year.

    In the northern neighbourhood of Shola, a suicide bomber driving a vehicle packed with explosives rammed into a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims before detonating his device. At least two people were killed and 28 others were injured.

    The shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim,a medieval Shia holy man, is in northern Baghdad. During a pilgrimage in 2005, rumours of a bombing on the Bridge of the Imams near the shrine started a stampede that killed 1,000 people.

    Other bomb blasts took place in the Karada, Dora and the Amiriya districts.

    Jane Arraf, a journalist reporting from Baghdad, told Al Jazeera that attacks on Shia Muslims usually take place outside of the capital, which makes the latest spate of attacks unusual.

    The violence comes a day after 14 Iranian pilgrims were killed when two buses collided in southern Iraq.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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