At least 70 people have been killed in Baghdad and southern Iraq in attacks during a major religious festival. The violence comes at a time of high political tension.
In total, more than 20 bombs went off in Iraq on Wednesday, in one of the bloodiest episodes since US troops left the country in December.
Car-bomb explosions targeting Shiite pilgrims in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killed and wounded dozens. Ten bombs and two shootings rocked the capital early in the morning leading to at least 19 deaths, according to an interior ministry official. The deadliest attack was in the Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada, where a car bomb claimed the lives of 16 people. Further bombs went off in other parts of the capital later in the day.
Car blasts also exploded in the mainly Shiite city of Balad, claiming several victims.
The revered imam is buried in a shrine in the Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah. The annual commemoration of the imam's death is to reach its climax on Saturday.
The escalation of violence has raised fears of heightened tensions between Shiites and Sunnis at a time when the country's fragile government is caught up in feuding over a power-sharing accord between Sunni, Shiite and ethnic Kurdish blocks.
Earlier this month, a suicide attack on a Shiite religious office in Baghdad killed 26 people and wounded more than 190. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by al-Qaeda's Iraqi branch, Islamic State of Iraq.
Sectarian tensions drove Iraq close to civil war in 2006-2007. Violence in Iraq has declined since then, but attacks remain common.
Official figures show that 132 Iraqis were killed in violence in May.
tj, sej/ncy (Reuters, AP, AFP)