Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Iraq: Two bomb explosions hit the holy city of Karbala

Iraq's Interior Ministry has said that two car bombs have exploded in the holly city of Karbala killing more than 18 Shi'a pilgrims in the city for Arbaeen, a religious observance and one of the holiest days in the Shi's calendar. It is estimated that at least 55 people were injured in the explosions.

The first bomb exploded in the morning while the pilgrims were disembarking from buses in the holy city, south of Baghdad. It was reported that six people had been killed in the first blast and 34 injured. The second bomb, which exploded several hours later, killed 10 pilgrims and two soldiers, and injured 21. The third explosive device was detected and defused.

All vehicles are banned from going into the city centre as pilgrims continue gathering for their ritual marking of the end of a 40-day mourning period for Shi'a Muslims' most beloved saint Imam Hussein, whose death in battle near Karbala cemented the historic Sunni-Shi'a split.

Around 30,000 Iraqi security forces have been deployed to the city to bolster security for the ritual, which culminates on Tuesday 25th January. No singular group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack, but it is believed to be the work of extremists linked with the Al-Qa'ida or Sunni militants. The Karbala explosions come four days after multiple bombings that left 50 people dead and 150 wounded, most of them Shi'a Muslims.

Sources: CNN, Xinhua, The Guardian, Al-Bawaba

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

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