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Bombs kill Shiite pilgrims

June 16, 2012

Two car bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims have killed at least 30 people in the Iraqi capital. The attacks in Baghdad came as more than a million devotees were taking part in commemorations for an eighth-century imam.

Firefighters wash the site of a bomb attack in Baghdad, June 16, 2012. Double car bombs targeting Shi'ite pilgrims in Baghdad killed at least 25 people on Saturday in the latest attacks by insurgents trying to tip Iraq back into widespread sectarian violence. (IRAQ - Tags: CONFLICT CIVIL UNREST)
Image: Reuters

The final day of an annual pilgrimage by Shiite pilgrims to the Imam Kadhim shrine was marred on Saturday by two car bombs that killed more than 30 people and wounded dozens more.

"The terrorists will not discourage us," promised a song played over mosque loudspeakers after the attack.

An interior ministry official said a car bomb exploded at about 12:15 p.m. local time on a highway near Shuala in north Baghdad, and a second one exploded at an intersection near Kadhimiyah two hours later.

Reports indicate that at least 30 people have died, and possibly several more.

Violence is on the rise

Saturday's blasts were the latest in a wave of recent terror attacks on the annual pilgrimage to honor the eighth century Imam Musa Kadhim.

On Wednesday, 72 people were killed in nearly two dozen coordinated bombings targeting pilgrims across the country. Al Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack.

The pilgrimage, which Shiites were forbidden from participating in under the late former President Saddam Hussein, has drawn nearly six million people in the past week, according to the shrine's secretary general, Fadhel al-Anbari.

The Shiite majority has been a main target of Sunni Arab armed groups since the fall of Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.

Al Qaeda has been attacking every few weeks in an apparent effort to weaken the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and spark more sectarian violence that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war a few years ago.

Pilgrims carry on

Despite the latest attacks, Saturday's commemorations continued as planned for Kadhim, the great grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and the pilgrims vowed to keep the centuries-old pilgrimage alive.

Crowds carried symbolic coffins through the streets as pilgrims beat theirs chests in mourning as they made their way toward the mosque's two gold domes.

tm/pfd (AP, AFP, dpa)