Bomb blast in Iraq :32 Shiites killed in bomb blast on the eve of Ashura-i-Muharram

A series of bombs tore through crowds of Shia pilgrims across Iraq on Monday, killing at least 32 people, mostly women and children, and wounding scores more, local police and witnesses said.

The attacks, at the height of Ashura, underscored Iraq’s fragile security as the last US troops withdraw from the country by the end of the year.

In the first attack, a car bomb blasted the end of one Shia procession, killing 16 mainly women and children, wounding 45 others and leaving bloody pools, shoes and tore clothes scattered across the street, police and witnesses said. “A powerful and horrible explosion went off behind us, smoke filled the area,” said Hadi al Mamouri, who was taking part in the ritual. “I could only hear the screams of women and I could only see the bodies of women and children on the street.” A second attack involving two roadside bombs killed at least six more people at another procession in Hilla and wounded 15 more, police sources said.

“I was shopping nearby, and suddenly a bomb went off as the procession reached the intersection. People were scattered on the ground and everyone started rescuing the injured,” Ammar Hussein, 55, said at the scene of the second blast. Authorities in Hilla imposed a city-wide ban on cars to help prevent more attacks. Hilla, 100 km south of Baghdad, is a mainly Shia city on a route used by pilgrims visiting Shi’ite holy sites to the south. In Baghdad, at least 11 people were killed and 38 more wounded by roadside bombs targeting Shia pilgrims in three different neighbourhoods, police and hospital sources said.

On the outskirts of Baghdad, gunmen using hand grenades attacked Shia pilgrims, killing two and wounding four in Latifiya, police said. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across Iraq, along with thousands of foreign pilgrims, most dressed in black, streamed into the city of Kerbala to mark Ashura.

Security officials assigned thousands of police officers and soldiers to protect the pilgrims as they headed to Imam Hussein’s (RA) shrine in Kerbala. No major violence was reported in Kerbala amid tight security. The attacks came as the last 10,000 American troops prepare to withdraw by the end of year. Violence has eased sharply since its worst years in 2006-2007 when Sunni and Shia armed groups killed thousands in inter-communal assassinations and bombings. Iraq’s security forces say they are generally ready to contain the stubborn insurgencies, but they acknowledge gaps in their abilities such as air defence and intelligence gathering once the American military depart.

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