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Today's Top News
Spate of Suicide Blasts Rock Iraq
A spate of explosions across Iraq has killed at least 50 people, most of them in twin suicide car bombings in the holy city of Karbala, the third major attack in as many days.
Thursday's attacks mostly targeted pilgrims marking the Shi'ite Muslim mourning day of Arbaeen, and were the latest in a series of bombings that have shattered a relative calm in Iraq after the formation of a new government last month.
In Karbala, home to the shrines of two revered Shi'ite Muslim imams, at least 45 people were killed when two suicide bombers detonated explosives-laden vehicles 20 minutes apart, said Karbala provincial council head Mohammed Hamid al-Mussawi.Advertisement: Story continues below
The first bomber struck at Karbala's northern outskirts about 3pm (11pm AEDT), Mussawi said, with the second occurring about 3.20pm, some 15km south of the city.
"At least 45 people, including women and children, have been killed and 150 have been wounded," he said.
A medical official at Karbala's main al-Hussein General Hospital said that of the dead, four were children and 20 were women. He added 20 people were killed in the blast north of the city, while the remainder died in the second explosion.
"The victims have been transferred to five hospitals in Karbala," he said. "We have also received parts of other bodies, so the death toll could still rise further."
Earlier on Thursday, a roadside bomb detonated among a crowd of Shi'ite pilgrims at the Al-Rasheed vegetable market in southern Baghdad, killing one and wounding nine, while another such blast in a central Iraqi town killed one and injured three, an interior ministry official said.
The groups of pilgrims were walking to Karbala, 110km south of the capital, as part of ceremonies to commemorate Arbaeen, which marks 40 days since the anniversary of the death of the 7th century Imam Hussein, who is revered among Shi'ite Muslims.
More than a million pilgrims are expected to visit Karbala in the coming days to commemorate Arbaeen, set to climax on Tuesday.
Also on Thursday, a suicide bomber blew up a car filled with explosives at a police headquarters in the central city of Baquba, killing two policemen and a female journalist in the third attack on Iraqi security forces in three days.
The suicide bomber detonated his payload about 10am, just 200 metres from the site of a large suicide car bomb against another security agency Wednesday morning.
"I heard a massive blast and suddenly, there was a rain of shrapnel falling from the sky," said Murtada Aiseh, a 47-year-old local government employee who was in a nearby market with his wife and suffered head injuries.
"I woke up in the hospital and found my wife near my bed, she suffered injuries to her right hand."
The attack also left 30 people wounded, according to Ahmed Alwan, a doctor at Baquba hospital. An interior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the toll.
The journalist, Wejdan Assad al-Juburi, had been a reporter for the Iraq al-Mustaqal (Independent Iraq) newspaper. A total of 255 journalists and media workers have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, according to the Baghdad-based Journalism Freedoms Observatory.
Diyala was an al-Qaeda stronghold as recently as 2008. While violence has since dropped off dramatically both in Diyala and nationwide, the province remains one of Iraq's least secure.
The violence comes after suicide attacks in Diyala killed 16 people on Wednesday, a day after a suicide bomb killed 50 people at a police recruitment centre in Tikrit, north of Baghdad.
The attacks come amid a spike in violence in Iraq, with at least 116 people killed and hundreds more killed in bombings in the past three days. By contrast, 151 people were killed throughout December 2010.
The Tikrit blast, the deadliest single attack in more than two months, was the first major strike since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki named a new cabinet on December 21, ending nine months of stalemate after March 7 parliamentary elections.
He has yet to name an interior, defence or national security minister, however, leaving him temporarily in charge of Iraq's entire security apparatus.