BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least seven Shi‘ite Muslim pilgrims from Iran and Pakistan were killed in Iraq on Saturday when a car bomb went off by a restaurant in a city north of the capital, police and hospital sources said.
The attack took place a few days into the holy month of Ashura, which is of special significance to Shi‘ite Muslims, who are targeted by al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate and other Sunni Islamist insurgents.
Police said a parked car blew up near a restaurant on the outskirts of Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, killing the pilgrims, who were travelling back to the capital from the Shi‘ite holy city of Samarra.
A further 25 people were wounded in the blast, medics said.
Almost one year after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, al Qaeda’s local wing has vowed to revive attacks against the country’s Shi‘ites in an attempt to reignite the kind of sectarian violence that drove the country to the edge of civil war four years ago.
Attacks against Shi‘ites have often increased during Ashura, when Shi‘ites commemorate the death of the Prophet’s grandson Imam Hussein.
Reporting by Gazwan Hassan; Writing by Suadad al-Salhy; Editing by Andrew Heavens