More than 60 people have been killed in Baghdad
in a wave of bombings targeting Shia Muslim pilgrims over the past three
days, security sources say.
Iraqi officials said blasts on
Thursday, the latest in a string of bombings in Iraqi capital, killed 12
people, pushing the death toll in the recent attacks to 62.
One bomb struck in central Bab al-Muazam
neighbourhood while a second exploded in the southeastern Mashtal
district, officials said.
The attacks appeared to offer a clear
indication of the determination of anti-government fighters to exploit
Iraq's political vacuum and destabilise the country as US troops prepare
to head home.
Iraq has been without a new government since the
March 7 election, which produced no clear winner.
Security sources said attacks on the
thousands of Shia Muslim faithful taking part in the pilgrimage to the
Musa Kadhim shrine have wounded more than 300 people since Tuesday.
The deadliest attack occurred on Wednesday in northern Baghdad's
predominantly Sunni Muslim neighbourhood of Adhamiya.
A suicide bomber killed 32 people and wounded more than 90 as Shia
Muslim pilgrims were about to cross a bridge leading to the shrine where
Musa Kadhim, a revered imam, is buried.
The attack took place near the bridge where 900 people died in 2005
in a stampede sparked by a rumour that a suicide bomber was about to
The attacks come days after the US vice-president met senior Iraqi
officials in Baghdad to urge them to select new leaders without further
Joe Biden met two main contestants for the prime
ministerial post, Nouri al-Maliki, who heads a Shia-dominated bloc, and
Iyad Allawi, the head of the a cross-sectarian coalition who narrowly
won the March vote.
asked the two men to compromise.
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Edmund Ghareeb, a professor of Middle East studies at the American
University in Washington, said the latest attacks were part of an
effort to exploit Iraq's political vacuum to stoke sectarian conflict.
"In this vacuum there are groups which are trying to throw back Iraq
to the period of sectarian conflict and to maintain this kind of
tension," he told Al Jazeera.
"And it is in many ways, I would
believe, a reflection of the continuing problems which are facing Iraq,
particularly the security situation."
The bloodshed notwithstanding, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims
defied the attacks to remain in Baghad for the culmination of the
religious festival on Thursday.
Special safety measures
Major-General Qassim Atta, a Baghdad security spokesman, told the AFP
news agency that special safety measures, including road closures, were
now in place to protect the worshippers.
"We continue to organise transport for pilgrims and air surveillance
for their benefit," he said.
"The movement of motorcycles, bicycles and carts is banned throughout
the city until further notice," Atta said.
Security officials said 200,000 police and soldiers were assigned to
protect the pilgrims as they headed to the Musa Kadhim shrine.
Hundreds of tents have been erected to feed people as they pour into
the city for the event.
The mausoleum has previously been targeted by bombers.
In April 2009, two female suicide bombers detonated their payloads
near the shrine, killing 65 people, including 20 Iranian pilgrims,
and wounding 120 others.
Al Jazeera and agencies