Attacks in Iraq around religious ritual kill 21

Attacks across Iraq targeting worshippers marking a major Shiite commemoration kill at least 21 people, including children.

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BAGHDAD // Attacks across Iraq targeting security forces and those marking a major Shiite commemoration killed at least 21 people on Wednesday, officials said.

One of the deadliest of Wednesday’s attacks targeted a group of Shiites marking Ashoura in the eastern Iraqi city of Baqouba, a former Al Qaeda stronghold, a police officer said. That attack killed eight people, including two children, and wounded 35, the officer said.

Baqouba is located about 60 kilometres northeast of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

The Shiites are marking Ashoura, the remembrance commemorating the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. The commemoration draws hundreds of thousands of Shiites to mourning ceremonies. Sunni extremists also target those marking the holiday, as they consider Shiites to be heretics.

Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a police checkpoint outside the northern city of Tikrit, killing five police officers and three civilians, another police officer said. The bombing wounded 18, the officer said.

Tikrit is 130 kilometres north of Baghdad.

Militants also detonated bombs near police officers’ homes in the town of Karmah, killing four people and wounding 24, police said. Karmah is 80 kilometres west of Baghdad.

In Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, a bomb targeting a police patrol killed one officer and wounded seven, police said.

Four medical officials confirmed the casualty figures from the attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to publicly release the figures.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks, but suicide attacks and bombings, especially against Iraqi forces and Shiites, are a favourite tactic of Al Qaeda. The group recently escalated its campaign of violence in order to thwart the Shiite-led government’s efforts to maintain security.

Violence spiked in Iraq since a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in April, with the pace of killing reaching levels unseen since 2008, leaving more than 5,500 people died since then, according to United Nations figures. Wednesday’s attacks bring the death toll across the country this month to 133, according to an Associated Press count.

Associated Press