KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) - At least four people were killed and 24 wounded in southern Iraq Thursday when a bomb exploded at a Shi’ite Muslim shrine as people were arriving after breaking their daily Ramadan fast, police said.
The blast occurred near the town of Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, which has seen a number of attacks in recent weeks. Mussayab was the site in 2005 of an explosion in which 98 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew up a fuel truck.
The sectarian violence that tore through Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion has largely abated but insurgent groups, such as Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party, still carry out frequent bomb attacks.
Two truck bomb blasts in Baghdad last month killed almost 100 people at the foreign and finance ministries, and rattled Iraqis as the country heads towards a hard-fought national election in January.
The bombings undermined confidence in the Iraqi security forces, which took over responsibility for protecting people in cities and towns after U.S. troops pulled out of urban centres in June, in a step towards a full withdrawal by end-2011.
The Shi’ite-led government has warned that violence is likely to increase before next year’s election as insurgents and political rivals try to damage Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki’s claim to having presided over the drop in overall violence.
So far, the Ramadan fast has been relatively tranquil in Iraq. Security, especially in Baghdad, has been visibly tightened in the aftermath of the August 19 truck bombs.
Reporting by Sami al-Jumaili; Writing by Michael Christie; Editing by Diana Abdallah