Iran pilgrims among 14 dead in Iraq bombings

Iran pilgrims among 14 dead in Iraq bombings

By | 2010-12-04T14:49:00-04:00 December 4th, 2010|News|0 Comments

Iranian pilgrims in Iraq to visit shrines

Six Iranian pilgrims were among 14 people killed in a spate of bombings across Baghdad on Saturday morning, security officials said.

A car bomb in a southwest Baghdad market in the mainly Shiite district of Bayaa took the heaviest toll, killing six people and wounding 41 others, an interior ministry source said.

In northern areas of the city, two car bombs hit Iranian pilgrims visiting Baghdad for tours of Shiite religious sites.

The bombings came two days after Iraqi officials said they had arrested 39 al-Qaeda militants, including top figures in Anbar province, a former al-Qaeda stronghold.

"Al-Qaeda is behind the bombings," said Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi. "The targeting of Shiite areas is an attempt to…inflame sectarian conflict."

Militants blew up a car bomb in front of a house used by Iranians as a rest stop in the Kadhamiya district of Baghdad, as well as explosives planted in an adjacent house, killing five people and wounding 18, the interior ministry source said.

"The explosion completely destroyed the two houses and damaged the rest of the houses in the area," said a man whose home was damaged. "We ask the government to focus on checkpoints to prevent the entry of explosives into residential areas."

In Baghdad’s northern Shula district, a car bomb exploded near a bus carrying Iranians, killing two people and wounding 28, sources said.

Northern Baghdad hosts the shrine for Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a mediaeval Shiite holy man. During a pilgrimage in 2005, rumors of a bombing on the Bridge of the Imams near the shrine touched off a stampede that killed 1,000 people.

Holy sites

Hundreds of thousands of Iranian religious tourists have visited Shi’ite holy sites in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Pilgrims are often targeted by Sunni Islamist groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq, which view Shi’ite Muslims as apostates.

An Iranian official said some Iranian citizens were wounded in the attacks and denied there were any deaths.

"No Iranian pilgrim was killed in Saturday’s attacks in Baghdad," said Mehdi Shahsavari, director general of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization for International Affairs, Iran’s student news agency ISNA reported.

Nineteen people died and dozens were hurt on Friday when two buses carrying mostly Iranian pilgrims collided on a highway south of Baghdad, a health official said.

Overall violence in Iraq has dropped significantly since the peak of sectarian violence in 2006-07, when tens of thousands were killed, but bombings and other attacks still occur daily.

Lieutenant General Hussein Kamal, a deputy interior minister, said the latest could have been a reaction to the government’s recent successes. Authorities said on Thursday they had scored a major coup with the arrests of the Anbar cell and paraded the suspects before news cameras.

"This is a kind of pressure exercised by the armed militias and al Qaeda to show that the government and security forces are disabled, despite our achievements," Kamal said.