x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Baghdad bombs strike Shia pilgrims

At least seven people have been killed by bombs targeting pilgrims taking part in the final day of the religious holiday marking the martyrdom of Imam Kadhim.

At least seven people have been killed by bombs targeting pilgrims taking part in the final day of the religious holiday marking the anniversary of the death of Imam Kadhim, which draws hundreds of thousands of people to Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. The deaths came a day after more than 50 people were killed in violence in and around the Iraqi capital, most of them by a suicide bomber who targeted pilgrims heading to a mosque in northern Baghdad to mark the anniversary of the death of Imam Kadhim, the seventh of 12 holy figures who defined the Shia faith.

While violence in Iraq has plummeted since the height of the insurgency a few years ago, the attacks targeting devout Shia who walked from across Iraq to take part in the holy occasion underscores the tentative nature of the security gains and the persistent attempts by insurgents to once again foment sectarian divisions. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but similar attacks in the past have been blamed on Sunni extremists who view Shiias as nonbelievers and object to the Shia-led government that took over Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Six people died in eastern Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded this morning as pilgrims were walking home from the mosque in the Kazimiyah neighborhood, while a car bomb in southern Baghdad killed another person. Iraqi security forces have blanketed the city with about 200,000 personnel, and a vehicle ban has been in place across the Kazimiyah neighborhood in an attempt to thwart attacks. But the sheer number of pilgrims as well as the spread-out nature of the religious event - with roads around the country blocked to allow pilgrims to walk to and from Baghdad - make it almost impossible for security forces to protect everyone. *AP