BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Thirty-two people were killed in three attacks on Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims walking in Baghdad on Thursday evening ahead of a major religious holiday, police and medical sources said.
The attackers defied a shutdown of major roadways for Shi’ite religious faithful, who were heading to the Imam Kadhim shrine in Kadhimiya in western Baghdad to commemorate the death of the Shi’ite saint in 799.
All the bombings happened in the space of 30 minutes. The deadliest was in eastern Baghdad, near Tayaran Square, where a minibus approached a crowd of pilgrims and exploded, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others, according to police and medical sources.
“The suicide bomber... came speeding out from a side street towards a group of pilgrims on foot,” said Police Captain Ahmed Nasir. “Many bodies were ripped to pieces.”
In Shaab, also in the east of the city, another parked vehicle blew up beside a group of pilgrims, killing 12 and wounding 30, the sources added.
Across Baghdad, in the western neighbourhood of Mansour, a parked car exploded, killing six people and wounding 38.
Security forces are on high alert as hundreds of thousands descend on Baghdad to mourn Imam Kadhim.
The anniversary of his death falls on Sunday. The holiday has been targeted by Sunni militants in past years, and Iraq is now gripped by its worst violence since the heights of its 2005-2008 sectarian war.
The bloodshed comes three days after the preliminary results of Iraq’s April election confirmed Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s status as the favourite to form the next government.
At least 10 more people died in Iraq on Thursday as gunmen and bombers attacked mostly police and military.
In the worst attack, gunmen broke into a house in the northern city of Mosul and killed a policeman, his brother and a cousin, a police officer said.
Also in Mosul, gunmen shot dead a female Shi’ite ethnic Turkmen election candidate who had failed to get into parliament, police said.
Reporting By Ahmed Rasheed Ziad Al-Sinjary and Ned Parker; Editing by Kevin Liffey