Thursday, July 08, 2010
15:36 Mecca time, 12:36 GMT
Deadly attacks target Iraq pilgrims
Attacks are taking place despite heavy security measures being in
place to protect pilgrims [Reuters]
More than 60 people have been killed in Baghdad in a wave of bombings targeting
Shia Muslim pilgrims over the past three days, security sources say.
Iraqi officials said blasts on Thursday, the latest in a string of bombings in
Iraqi capital, killed 12 people, pushing the death toll in the recent attacks
One bomb struck in central Bab al-Muazam neighbourhood while a second exploded
in the southeastern Mashtal district, officials said.
The attacks appeared to offer a clear indication of the determination of
anti-government fighters to exploit Iraq's political vacuum and destabilise the
country as US troops prepare to head home.
Iraq has been without a new government since the March 7 election, which
produced no clear winner.
Security sources said attacks on the thousands of Shia Muslim faithful taking
part in the pilgrimage to the Musa Kadhim shrine have wounded more than 300
people since Tuesday.
The deadliest attack occurred on Wednesday in northern Baghdad's predominantly
Sunni Muslim neighbourhood of Adhamiya.
A suicide bomber killed 32 people and wounded more than 90 as Shia Muslim
pilgrims were about to cross a bridge leading to the shrine where Musa Kadhim,
a revered imam, is buried.
The attack took place near the bridge where 900 people died in 2005 in a
stampede sparked by a rumour that a suicide bomber was about to strike.
The attacks come days after the US vice-president met senior Iraqi officials in
Baghdad to urge them to select new leaders without further delays.
Joe Biden met two main contestants for the prime ministerial post, Nouri
al-Maliki, who heads a Shia-dominated bloc, and Iyad Allawi, the head of the a
cross-sectarian coalition who narrowly won the March vote.
Inside Iraq: Renewed violence in Iraq
Iraq vacuum threatens stability
Riz Khan: Reopening sectarian wounds?
Biden asked the two men to compromise.
Edmund Ghareeb, a professor of Middle East studies at the American University
in Washington, said the latest attacks were part of an effort to exploit Iraq's
political vacuum to stoke sectarian conflict.
"In this vacuum there are groups which are trying to throw back Iraq to the
period of sectarian conflict and to maintain this kind of tension," he told Al
"And it is in many ways, I would believe, a reflection of the continuing
problems which are facing Iraq, particularly the security situation."
The bloodshed notwithstanding, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims defied the
attacks to remain in Baghad for the culmination of the religious festival on
Special safety measures
Major-General Qassim Atta, a Baghdad security spokesman, told the AFP news
agency that special safety measures, including road closures, were now in place
to protect the worshippers.
"We continue to organise transport for pilgrims and air surveillance for their
benefit," he said.
"The movement of motorcycles, bicycles and carts is banned throughout the city
until further notice," Atta said.
Security officials said 200,000 police and soldiers were assigned to protect
the pilgrims as they headed to the Musa Kadhim shrine.
Hundreds of tents have been erected to feed people as they pour into the city
for the event.
The mausoleum has previously been targeted by bombers.
In April 2009, two female suicide bombers detonated their payloads near the
shrine, killing 65 people, including 20 Iranian pilgrims, and wounding 120
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