At least 60 people have been killed and more than 200 injured in a series of bomb attacks targeting mainly Shiite pilgrims and police in the Iraqi capital Baghdad as well as the southern cities of Hilla and Balad, media reports citing local officials said on Wednesday.
According to officials, more than 40 people were killed in bomb attacks targeting Shiite pilgrims gathered in Baghdad for attending a religious ceremony held to mark the death anniversary of Shiite imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of Prophet Mohammad. Dozens were injured in the attacks.
A while later, more than 20 people died and at least 30 others were injured after two car bombs exploded near a restaurant frequented by police officers in the southern city of Hilla. Four others were also killed in separate car bomb attacks in the city of Balad.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks, but police blame Sunni Islamist insurgents who are still active in the country despite ongoing efforts to improve security. They say the attacks are aimed at provoking a new Sunni-Shia sectarian war in Iraq.
Tuesday's attacks came just a couple of days after four people were killed and more than 30 wounded in a mortar attack on a square filled with Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad's north-western Kadhimiya district. Security was stepped up in the area to prevent further attacks on the pilgrims as they march towards the shrine of al-Kadhim, which is considered to be one of the holiest Shiite sites.
Earlier this month, a bomb attack targeting the office of the Shiite Waqf (Endowment) in Baghdad's Bab al-Muadham neighborhood had killed at least 29 people and injured many more. Al-Qaeda-linked Sunni militants later claimed responsibility for the attack on the religious office, which takes care of all Shiite religious sites in the country.
Although violence has dropped across Iraq in recent years, the war-ravaged country still witnesses such attacks on a regular basis. Such incidents increased drastically after U.S. combat forces left the country. It is estimated that more than 200 people have died in militant attacks across Iraq since the U.S. troop pullout.
The last of U.S. combat troops left Iraq by the end of December, ending a decade-long American military presence since the 2001 invasion of the Middle East nation. The troop pullout was in line with a bilateral security agreement that required the withdrawal of all American troops from the country by the end of 2011.
by RTT Staff Writer
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