Three women bombers blew themselves up on Monday in a crowd of Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad, one of a string of attacks in Iraq that killed at least 51 people, undermining hopes of a drop in violence.
Scores of people were also wounded in the attacks, which follow a relative lull in the sectarian violence that has ravaged the country since February 2006, when insurgents blew up a Shiite mosque in the central city of Samarra.
The triple attack in Baghdad killed at least 25 pilgrims as they headed to a holy shrine for a major religious ceremony on the Shiite Muslim calendar that has been marred by bloodshed in the past, security officials said.
Another 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing during a protest rally in the northern oil city of Kirkuk, and gunfire in a panicked stampede that followed, local officials said.
Among the dead in the Baghdad bombings were women and children, security and hospital officials told AFP, adding that about 70 other people were wounded.
The bombers struck in the Karrada district of central Baghdad as pilgrims were making their way on foot towards Kadhimiyah in the north of the Iraqi capital, site of a Shiite festival on Tuesday.
“At least 25 people were killed and more than 70 were wounded in three suicide attacks, probably by females suicide bombers,” a police official said.
On Sunday, gunmen shot dead seven pilgrims in Madin, a town south of Baghdad, despite tight security for Tuesday’s ceremony honouring revered imam Mussa Kadhim that is expected to attract up to one million worshippers.
Pilgrims from around the country are flocking to the Iraqi capital to mourn the revered imam who died 12 centuries ago, prompting authorities to step up security amid concerns over attacks.
Systematic violence — suicide bombings and sectarian killings — have dropped sharply in the capital since a peak in 2006, but Iraqi police are worried about a wave of attacks in the city of six million people.
Major General Kassam Atta, spokesman for city security, told reporters that his force had information regarding the possibility of attacks targeting pilgrims during this year’s festival.
“We ask people to help in all ways with our security forces,” Atta said, adding that up to one million people were expected.
Checks have been particularly stringent amid what appears to be [a] growing trend of using women in insurgent bombings, which have claimed hundreds of lives across the volatile country….