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At least 27 killed in Iraq holy city bombings.

Summary: At least 27 people were killed and 75 wounded on Friday when two car bombs blew up in Iraq's holy city of Kerbala as hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims observed a major religious

At least 27 people were killed and 75 wounded on Friday when two car bombs blew up in Iraq's holy city of Kerbala as hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite pilgrims observed a major religious rite, hospital sources said.

The attack on the final and most important day of the Arbain festival was the third major strike this week against Shi'ite pilgrims.

Worshippers massed in Karbala, 110 kilometers (68 miles) south of Baghdad, mindful that dozens of pilgrims had been killed in recent days as they made their way there on foot to make the Arbaeen rituals.

"I travelled all this distance to tell terrorists that their actions will not stop us from visiting Imam Hussein," said Jaber al-Temimi, an Iranian who arrived three days ago after walking from the border. 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 Sunni caliph Yazid in 680 AD.

Karbala governor Amalheddin al-Hir told AFP that 10 million pilgrims had visited the Imam's shrine in the past two weeks, walking as a sign of piety, with the ceremonies culminating at midday (0900 GMT) on Friday.

"The visitors included Arabs and about 100,000 foreigners from the Gulf states, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Tanzania, the United States, Norway and Belgium," Hir said.

"The ceremony will be over after midday, after Friday prayers, and all the pilgrims will leave," he added, appealing to neighboring provinces to send transport to Karbala to help speed the exodus from the city's streets.

Television pictures showed crowds massed near the shrine stretching into the far distance and carrying flags adorned with Imam Hussein's image.

Around 30,000 police and soldiers are on duty in the holy city, following a spate of attacks on pilgrims in the past week.

On Monday, a female suicide bomber blew herself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims near Baghdad, killing 41 people including women and children, and wounding more than 100.

She detonated an explosives-filled belt as devotees lined up for security checks at one of the many food and rest stations set up on the route to Karbala.

Defense ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari said the woman bomber came from Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, that has in the past been a stronghold of al-Qaeda which still has a local presence.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office blamed the Baath party of executed dictator Saddam Hussein for the attack.

"We hold Baathists and their Takfiri allies responsible for this massacre," it said.

Takfiri is a term used by the Iraqi government to refer to al-Qaeda members.

On Wednesday, a second suicide attacker ploughed a bomb-laden vehicle into pilgrims on the outskirts of Karbala, killing 23 of them and wounding 147.

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Article Details
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Publication:Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Feb 4, 2010
Words:506
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