Iraqi civil defence personnel and others gather at the site of a bomb attack in Baghdad's northwestern Kadhimiya district. A set of explosions involving two car bombs in Kadhimiya killed at least 72 people., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Bombs targeting Shiites killed at least 72 in Iraq
By Dan Morse and Aziz Alwan, Updated:
Thursday, January 5, 9:49 AM
BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber blew himself up next to a large group of Shiites on a pilgrimage Thursday afternoon, one in a series of apparently sectarian attacks that resulted in the highest one-day death toll since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq last month.
At the same time, a political stand-off between Shiite and Sunni leaders continued at the Iraqi parliament, with the majority of the Sunni-supported political bloc Iraqiya choosing to boycott the proceedings.
The attack on the road to the holy city of Karbala, which killed at least 48 people, followed explosions in two Shiite neighborhoods in the Iraqi capital that left at least 24 people dead. The Karbala bombing injured more than 80 people, according to a provincial security chief, and the explosions in Baghdad wounded more than 65.
Just before the bombing of the pilgrims, an Iraqi army officer saw the assailant and tried to intervene, said the security chief, Sajad al-Asadi. The officer attempted to wrap his arms around the bomber and tackle him before he could detonate his explosives. He was killed in the bombing, which occurred near Nasiriyah, about 200 miles south of Baghdad.
Asadi said many of those injured in the bombing are in serious or critical condition, and he expects the death toll to rise.
“We are blaming al-Qaeda,” Asadi said, although no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. “This is al-Qaeda’s tactic to target Shiite pilgrims.”
In Baghdad, an explosives-laden motorcycle blew up near a group of day laborers in Sadr City around 7 a.m.. Two more bombs were detonated simultaneously near a hospital in the same area, according to Ministry of Interior officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. A total of nine people were killed and 35 injured in those blasts, officials said.
Ninety minutes later, two car bombs exploded near Aruba Square in the Kadhimiyah district of northern Baghdad, killing 15 and injuring 31, according to initial reports.
Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, the Baghdad operations command spokesman, told government-run al-Iraqiya television that the blasts targeted innocent civilians. He warned residents that bombings often come in pairs.
“We advise citizens not to gather if they hear the first explosion,” Atta said.
On Dec. 22, during morning rush hour, at least 15 bombs were set off during a two hour period, killing at least 65 people. The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, later asserted responsibility.