At least 25 killed, 115 injured in fresh Karbala attack
At least 25 people were killed and 115 injured Wednesday in a suicide bombing targeting Iraqi Shiite Muslim pilgrims visiting the southern city of Karbala, police said.
"A suicide bomber was driving his motorbike among a group of pilgrims who were walking toward Karbala to celebrate the Arbaine of Imam Hussein," police told the German Press Agency dpa.
Millions of Iraqi Shiite Muslims are making the annual Arbaine pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Hussein, who was killed in battle near the city in the year 680. The pilgrimage marks the 40th day of mourning after his death.
Witnesses said that two people were killed and 11 injured when an explosive device went off, targeting the pilgrims late Tuesday. The bomb was planted on the side of a road in the Kantarat al-Salam region, east of Karbala, which many pilgrims take to visit the shrine.
Iraqi authorities have deployed more than 30,000 military and police officers on the roads leading to Karbala. Security authorities are cooperating with US army air support to protect visitors in the holy Shiite city, a security source said.
Around 5 million visitors have already arrived in the city to attend the annual ritual on February 5, according to security officials, who added that it is the largest number of visitors since 2003. Safeguarding pilgrims during major Shiite festivals remains a challenge for security forces.
Celebrating Shiite events was forbidden during the regime of Saddam Hussein, which suppressed any public display of worship rituals by Iraq's Shiite majority.