tampabay.com

Attacks kill more than 40

Targeted are Shiite pilgrims at a rest stop and a Sunni area of Baghdad.

Associated Press
Published February 25, 2008


BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber blew himself up among Shiite pilgrims taking a break Sunday during their dayslong march to a shrine for a major religious gathering. The blast killed at least 40 people and wounded 60, making it one of the deadliest this year.

It was the second attack of the day against pilgrims traveling to the holy city of Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Hours earlier, extremists attacked a group with guns and grenades in the predominantly Sunni Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, killing three and wounding 36, police said.

The suicide bomber targeted travelers near Iskandariyah, as authorities have fortified the capital and Karbala to keep away extremists. Those are the main areas where rituals are performed to commemorate the end of the 40-day mourning period for Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures.

In Karbala, crowds already choked the streets, though the culmination of events is not until Thursday.

Shiite commemorations have frequently been targeted by suspected Sunni insurgents led by al-Qaida in Iraq in their drive to stoke sectarian violence. The attacks have prompted U.S. and Iraqi forces to increase checkpoints, and impose car bans and other measures in major Shiite cities to protect the worshipers.

But the pilgrims who walk for days to reach the shrine of Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed who died in a seventh-century battle near Karbala, are vulnerable despite the increased security.

The suicide bomber who struck on Sunday detonated his explosives belt at a tent providing food and drinks to the travelers on the outskirts of Iskandariyah.

U.S. soldiers killed: The U.S. military said Sunday that two soldiers were killed in separate attacks in Baghdad, one in a roadside bombing and the other by small-arms fire.

FAST FACTS:

Copter crashes

A Turkish helicopter crashed in Iraq and eight soldiers were killed during a cross-border ground operation against Kurdish rebels, Turkey's military said Sunday. The guerrillas said they shot down the copter. The deaths bring the Turkish toll since the start of the incursion Thursday to 15, the military said. Thirty-three rebels were killed in Sunday's fighting, bringing the rebel death toll to 112, the military said.