Suicide bomber kills Iraqi Shia pilgrims

Shia pilgrims gather at the Imam Moussa al-Khadhim mosque (7 June 2010) Militants have frequently targeted pilgrims to Imam Moussa al-Khadhim’s shrine

At least 33 people have been killed and 100 wounded in a series of bomb attacks on Shia pilgrims making their way to a shrine in northern Baghdad, police say.

Twenty-eight died when a suicide bomber targeted a crowd walking through the predominantly Sunni Adhamiya district to the Imam Moussa al-Khadhim mosque.

Five pilgrims were killed in two other bombings in the east of the capital.

Security had been stepped up to protect the thousands of pilgrims attending a festival that culminates on Thursday.

Vehicles had been banned in the Khadhimya area, where the shrine is located, and some 200,000 members of the security forces deployed along the pilgrims’ main routes.

Map of Baghdad

The festival marks the anniversary of the death in the 8th Century of Moussa al-Kadhim, the seventh Shia imam.

In 2005, some 1,000 pilgrims were killed in a stampede on the Imams Bridge, which crosses the River Tigris between Khadhimya and Adhamiya, after rumours of a suicide bombing spread.

The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says that while the overall level of violence is much lower than in recent years, and sectarian tensions have eased, attacks of this kind are all too frequent, particularly during high-profile religious events.

The explosions come as the US military prepares to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by the end of August.

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