x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Wave of bombings kills 40 in Iraq

Deadliest day of violence to hit the country in more than two months as bombs kill 40 people and wound 124 others.

Residents inspect the site of a bomb attack in Hilla, 100km south of Baghdad.
Residents inspect the site of a bomb attack in Hilla, 100km south of Baghdad.

HILLA, Iraq // Bombs targeting mainly Shiites and security forces in Iraq yesterday killed 40 people and wounded 124 others in the deadliest day of violence to hit the country in more than two months.

The attacks, the worst since 76 people were killed on September 9, included the second series of bombings against Shiites this week, after three car bombs exploded near their places of worship in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing a dozen and wounding scores more.

Yesterday's violence brings the number of people killed in attacks this month to at least 147, 11 more than in October, reversing a three-month trend of declining death tolls.

Two roadside bombs targeting a group of Shiite pilgrims in the city of Hilla killed 28 people and wounded 85 yesterday, police and medical sources said.

Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area of the blasts and set up checkpoints in the city to search cars, adding that shops near the site were shuttered after the attacks.

Ali Al Khafaji, the owner of a mobile-phone shop in the area of the blasts, said that there was a big explosion near a restaurant where a tent serving food to Shiite pilgrims was set up, followed by another blast when emergency personnel arrived at the scene.

In the shrine city of Karbala, a car bomb exploded under a bridge, killing five people and wounding 13, police said.

Security forces closed off all roads leading to the old city, where Imam Hussein, one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam, is buried, and were searching for a second car bomb.

Security forces were also targeted.

A suicide car bomb against an army patrol in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, killed three soldiers and wounded three others and four civilians, while a car bomb in Mosul, in northern Iraq, targeted a police patrol, killing a policeman and a civilian and wounding two other police officers.

A car bomb on the main road south of Baghdad killed one person and wounded 11, including three police oficers, while two roadside bombs near a military base north of the city killed one person and wounded six others, an interior ministry official said.

Members of Iraq's security forces and the country's Shiite majority are frequently targeted by Sunni insurgents in bomb attacks.

Millions of pilgrims flock to Karbala each year for Ashura commemorations marking Hussein's death in battle in AD680. Pilgrimages reached their peak this year on November 25.

While dozens of pilgrims have previously been killed in bombings during Ashura, the commemorations were largely free of violence this year, though two attacks against pilgrims killed three people and wounded 35.

Pilgrims also walk from all over Iraq to Karbala during the 40-day mourning period that follows Ashura.

"What happened is that security forces were in the peak of readiness and activity during the last occasion [Ashura]," but became less so after the commemorations concluded, Ali Al Haidari, an Iraqi expert in security and strategic issues, said.

"Security forces usually become tired after such occasions, and the enemy benefits from this directly. In addition to that, there is also the absence of modern technologies which can detect explosives," he said.