x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Suicide bomber kills 50 Shiite pilgrims in southern Iraq

Another 100 were wounded in the attack, which happened just west of Basra city.

BASRA // A suicide attack on Shiite pilgrims on the outskirts of the main southern Iraqi city of Basra killed 50 people on Saturday at the end of Arbaeen commemorations, the provincial health chief told AFP.

Riyadh Abdulamir, head of the health department in Basra province, said 50 people were killed and 100 wounded in the 9am (0600 GMT) attack just west of Basra city.

Women and children were among the casualties, he said, but did not give further details.

The attacker, who had been distributing food to pilgrims walking to the Khutwa Imam Ali, a site on the outskirts of Basra venerated by believers for its associations with one of the key figures of their faith, blew himself up near a police checkpoint.

Pilgrims in south Iraq who cannot visit the central shrine city of Karbala to mark Arbaeen typically make the shorter trip to Khutwa Imam Ali, which lies around 12 kilometres (seven miles) west of Basra.

Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.