Suicide bomber kills 40 in Iraq
* Three pilgrims killed, 36 injured in Baghdad
KERBALA: A suicide bomber targeting pilgrims heading to a Shia holy festival killed 40 people in he south of Baghdad on Sunday, police said.
Police and the US military said the bomber struck in the town of Iskandariya, 40 kilometres south of Baghdad, hours after militants killed three pilgrims and wounded 36 others in an attack in southern Baghdad, police said. Police said 40 people were killed and 46 wounded, despite a major tightening of security.
The US military had earlier said hospital officials were reporting 25 dead and 50 wounded.
The military said in a statement that the attack took place on a two-lane highway near a residential area where about 42,000 pilgrims had passed through earlier in the day.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and police have been deployed for the Arbain festival after suspected Sunni Arab insurgents killed 149 pilgrims on their way to Kerbala for the event last year. The pilgrims are particularly vulnerable to attack because many prefer to walk to Kerbala.
Baghdad attack: In the Baghdad attack, the pilgrims were hit by a roadside bomb and then fired on by gunmen on a road used by thousands of pilgrims walking to the festival of Arbain in Kerbala, police said. The US military gave a different account, saying gunmen had lobbed hand grenades at the pilgrims in Baghdad, killing one and wounding 17.
It said US and Iraqi forces would increase patrols and checkpoints, restricting vehicle access through key routes to Kerbala from southern Baghdad.
Vehicles banned: Millions of Shia pilgrims are expected in Kerbala for Arbain this week, which commemorates the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, a religious ritual that marks the death of Imam Hussain (RA) in 680. Kerbala’s police chief, Major General Raad Shakir, told Reuters last week that 40,000 police and soldiers had been deployed and that Iraqi tanks were being used to protect the city for the first time. reuters