A wave of car bombs struck Shia pilgrims in several cities across Iraq on Wednesday,killing at least 66 people and wounding more than 200 in one of the deadliest attacks since US troops withdrew from the country.
The bloodshed was a stark reminder of the political tensions threatening to provoke a new round of sectarian violence that once pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war. Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks,but they bore the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents who frequently target Shias in Iraq.
Wednesdays blasts were the third attack this week targeting the annual pilgrimage that sees thousands of Shias converge on Baghdad to commemorate the 8th century death of revered Imam Moussa al-Kadhim,who is interred in a shrine in the northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah.
Most of the 16 separate explosions that rocked the country targeted the Shia pilgrims,but two hit offices of political parties linked to Iraqs Kurdish minority. Authorities had tightened security ahead of the pilgrimage,including a blockade of the mainly Sunni area of Azamiyah,which is near the twin-domed Shia shrine.
Baghdad military command spokesman Col Dhia al-Wakeel said the attacks were intended to reignite all-out sectarian bloodshed,but Iraqis are fully aware of the terrorism agenda and will not slip into a sectarian conflict.
The first bomb struck a procession around 5 am in Taji town,north of Baghdad,killing seven people and wounding two others,two police officers said,followed by four more morning blasts that hit other groups of pilgrims across the capital,killing 25 people and wounding more than 70,according to police and health officials.
South of Baghdad,two car bombs exploded minutes apart at dawn in the center of the city of Hillah,killing 21 people and wounding 53,according to two police officers and one health worker. Two nearly simultaneous car bombs also killed seven pilgrims and wounded 34 in the Shiite town of Balad,80 km north of Baghdad,a police official and health official said.
In the northern city of Mosul,a car bomb targeted an office of President Jalal Talabanis Patriotic Union of Kurdistan,killing two and wounding four others. Two other explosions elsewhere in Mosul wounded five people elsewhere in Mosul,about 360 km northwest of Baghdad.
It was the deadliest day in Iraq since Jan. 5,when bombings targeting Shias killed 78 people in Baghdad and outside Nasiriyah.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines