In Baghdad, three female suicide bombers detonated
their explosive vests in the middle of religious pilgrims moments after a
roadside bomb attack, killing at least 32 people and wounding 102, Iraqi
officials said, according to the Associated Press.
News agency reports varied as to the number of
casualties in Baghdad, with Reuters reporting that some 28 people died in the
The attacks took place in the mainly Shiite Karradah
district, which is several miles from the destination of the pilgrimage in
Kazimiyah in northern Baghdad. Most of the dead were women and children, police
and health officials said.
“I heard women and children crying and shouting
and I saw burned women as dead bodies lied in pools of blood on the
street,” Mustapha Abdullah, 32, who was injured in the stomach and legs,
told the AP from the hospital where he was being treated.
It was the deadliest attack in Baghdad since June
17, when a truck bombing killed 63 people in Hurriyah, a neighborhood that saw
some of the worst Shiite-Sunni slaughter in 2006.
In the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, at least 25
people were killed and at least 185 were wounded when a blast tore through a
crowd of Kurds protesting a draft provincial elections law, officials said.
Local police said remains recovered from the scene showed the attacker was a
The U.S. military confirmed a suicide
bombing but said there was no indication the attacker was a woman, according to
Maj. Gen. Jamal Tahir, a Kirkuk police spokesman,
said police found a car bomb nearby and detonated it safely.
After the explosion, dozens of angry Kurds opened
fire on the offices of a Turkomen political party, which opposes Kurdish claims
The bombings mark a troubling blow to the Iraqi
public’s growing confidence of recent security gains. Violence had dipped to
its lowest levels in more than four years, the AP reported.
A senior U.S. military official blamed al-Qaida in
Iraq for the Baghdad attacks. The attacks come ahead of U.S. and Iraqi military
operations in early August aimed at routing out insurgents from rural hideouts
in northern Iraq and solidify recent security gains in urban areas.
In Baghdad, the pilgrims will congregate at the
Kazimiyah mosque to mourn the death of Shiite saint Imam Moussa al-Kadhim,
believed to have been poisoned in the late eighth century by agents of the
then-ruling Sunni caliph, Harun al-Rashid.
Since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, who was a
Sunni, Shiite political parties have encouraged huge turnouts at religious
festivals to display the majority sect’s power. The gathering is a time for
prayer and celebration with relatives and friends, but with the hundreds of
thousands of people expected, it also poses a threat to the security gains made
in Baghdad over the past six months.
Sunni religious extremists have often targeted the
gatherings to foment sectarian tensions.
Suicide bombings are increasingly carried out by
women, who are more easily able to hide explosives under their black Islamic
robes, or abayas, and often are not searched at checkpoints. Women have carried
out more than 20 suicide attacks in Iraq this year.
Security forces deployed about 200 women this week
to search female pilgrims near Kazimiyah.
In 2005, at least 1,000 people also were killed in a
bridge stampede caused by rumors of a suicide bomber in Baghdad during the
Despite the bombings, some Shiite pilgrims said they
were determined to continue with the ceremonies.
“Today we are going to visit the holy Shrine of
Imam Kadhim. We pay no heed to bombings and death. We are believing in
God,” Jassim Jihad told the BBC.