At Least 60 Killed, Over 100 Wounded in Suicide Attacks in Iraq

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BBC News

At Least 60 Killed, Over 100 Wounded in Suicide Attacks in Iraq

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A man cries near blood-stained stretchers at a morgue in Baghdad's Kadhimiya district April 24, 2009. In a second day of major bloodshed, two suicide bombers wearing explosive vests blew themselves up at the gates of a revered Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Baghdad on Friday, killing 60 people, Iraqi police said. (REUTERS/Bassim Shati)

Two female suicide bombers have attacked Baghdad's main Shia shrine, killing at least 60 people and injuring 125 others, officials in Iraq say.

The attack happened at the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in the Kadhimiya area as people gathered for Friday prayers.

It comes a day after 84 people were killed in two separate suicide attacks in Baghdad and Baquba.

Many victims in Baquba and in Baghdad on Friday were Iranian pilgrims and the violence was condemned in Tehran.

Violence fell sharply in the last year and the latest bombing does not change this trend, but it is a worrying development, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad.

'Explosion and fire'

The bombers detonated their explosives belts within minutes of each other near two gates of the revered shrine, which was crowded with worshippers.

The howling of the wounded echoed through a nearby hospital where the victims were admitted, the hallways packed with security forces and anxious family members looking for loved ones, an AFP correspondent reports.

Sabiha Kadhim, 50, had come up from the southern Iraqi town of Diwaniya with her family, four of whom were killed in the blast.

Lying on a stretcher, her head and hand bandaged, she said: "I was near the shrine and suddenly there was a huge explosion and a fire broke out.

"I saw human body parts everywhere."

Qassim Zada, a 62-year-old Iranian pilgrim from Tehran, had come to the shrine with his wife. He now lay in hospital, his clothes soaked in blood.

"I was only a few metres [yards] away from the explosion and I don't know what happened," he said.

The shrine, in a predominantly Shia neighbourhood of the capital, has been a target for insurgents in the past.

'Hateful' attack

Around 25 of those killed on Friday were Iranian pilgrims, Iraqi police said.

Most of the 56 people now known to have been killed when a suicide bomber blew up a restaurant in Baquba, Diyala Province, on Thursday were also Iranian pilgrims.

On the same day, a suicide bomber infiltrated a crowd of displaced families in Baghdad as they received supplies from police, detonating an explosives belt and killing 28 people.

At Friday prayers in Tehran, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani - the influential Iranian cleric and former president - condemned Thursday's attack on pilgrims.

"The incident yesterday was a very, very hateful example of those who harm religion in the name of religion," he said in a sermon broadcast live by Iranian radio.

"We feel sorry for the Iraqi people because such corrupt groups have penetrated into Iraq. We also criticise America for not having the serious will to preserve Iraq's security."

Meanwhile, new statistics from Iraq's health ministry say that since 2005 when violence worsened more than 87,000 Iraqis have been killed.

The figures are based on hospital and mortuary records and are seen as significant given the heated and highly politicised debate over the human cost of the war in Iraq, our correspondent says.

 

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