Monday, January 24, 2011

Iraq car bombings kill at least 22

Two car bombs exploded Monday as thousands of pilgrims marched into Karbala to mark Arbaeen, a religious holiday. At least 151 people have died in Iraq in bombings since Tuesday.

Two car bombs exploded Monday near Karbala as Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority visited the shrine city for a major religious holiday, according to security and medical officials. The blasts killed at least 22 people.

The bombs struck as thousands of pilgrims marched into Karbala to mark Arbaeen, the end of the 40-day mourning period for the Shiite religious figure Imam Hussein, whose 7th century death in battle cemented Islam's Shiite-Sunni schism. It was the second major attack in the religious city since Thursday, when a pair of bombs killed 56 people and wounded 189 people.

The first bomb went off in a car parked to the south of the city, close to one of the Thursday blast sites, killing at least eight people and wounding 35. The second car bomb went off east of the city, leaving at least 14 dead and another 40 wounded, security and medical officials said.

Mohammed Tnayish, a 45-year-old farmer, was walking with his wife when the second attack occurred.

"Many charred bodies were there, women, children and men. It was so sad and horrible. Blood was everywhere," Tnayish said. "It's so frustrating to have car bombs every few days against Imam Hussein pilgrims. Where are the security forces? They should have better measures and intelligence to prevent such terrorist acts."

At least 151 people have died in bombings since last Tuesday, when a suicide bomber struck a crowd of police recruits in the late Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, killing 60 people.

The recent violence brought an end to a relative lull in suicide attacks and car bombings since the second week of November, when Iraqi politicians struck a deal to form a new government after months of stalemate.

It was unclear whether the latest round of attacks meant armed groups had discovered a newfound ability to carry out major attacks on a near-daily basis or that groups were simply taking advantage of an easier and more visible target in the large number of Shiite faithful now marching to Karbala.

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