A wave of bombings and shootings rocked Iraq during a major Shiite religious commemoration on Wednesday, killing at least 56 people and wounded dozens more, according to various reports and officials on the ground.
One of the deadliest blasts occurred in the Kadhimiyah area of north Baghdad, Al-Jazeera reports, where tens of thousands of Shia pilgrims had gathered to mark the anniversary of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim's death.
"A group of pilgrims were walking and passed by a tent offering food and drinks when suddenly a car exploded near them," said Wathiq Muhana, a policeman whose patrol was stationed near the blast.
"People were running away covered with blood and bodies were scattered on the ground," he said. Human remains were scattered across the street, while cars and shops in the area were damaged, an Agence France-Presse photographer who was on the scene said.
AFP also reports that another 2 car bombs in the central Iraq city of Hilla killed 19 people and wounded 48 others.
The bombings and shootings today in Iraq continue a pattern of violence in the country devastated by the US invasion in 2003 and a subsequent eight year occupation. US combat forces withdrew in late 2011, but a stable and peaceful Iraq remains elusive.
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Al-Jazeera: Scores killed in Iraq attacks
In the southern mainly Shia city of Hilla, two bombs, including one detonated by a suicide car bomber, exploded outside restaurants frequented by police, killing 22 people and wounding 38.
"When a minibus packed with policemen stopped near the restaurants, a car exploded near the bus," said Maitham Sahib, owner of a restaurant in Hilla near the blast. "It's heart breaking. It is just sirens, and screams of wounded people."
Separately in the capital, three federal policemen were assassinated by unknown gunmen at their checkpoint in Saidyiah district.
Another person was killed in the northern city of Kirkuk when three more bombs exploded, one of them outside the political office of a prominent Kurdish leader.
The attacks made Wednesday the deadliest day in Iraq since 68 people were killed in Iraq on January 5.
The attacks on Shias were the third occasion pilgrims were targeted in a week.
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Agence France-Presse adds:
At least 19 people also died in the Baghdad area in a spate of 10 bombings and two shootings which also left dozens of people wounded, a medical official and an official from the interior ministry said.
The attacks included one in Karrada in central Baghdad that killed 16 people and wounded 32 others, according to the medical official.
The attack, which the interior ministry official said was a car bomb, appeared aimed at Shiite pilgrims, tens of thousands of whom are flocking to the Imam Kadhim shrine in the Kadhimiyah area of north Baghdad.
The bomb exploded in an area where pilgrims were eating breakfast in tents.
Human remains were scattered across the street, while cars and shops in the area were damaged, an AFP photographer said.
Nine people, meanwhile, were killed in a wave of attacks in Baquba, north of Baghdad.
"There was a series of attacks with nine roadside bombs in different areas on the outskirts of Baquba, which killed four people and wounded seven," a police colonel said.
Gunmen also attacked a house north of Baquba, killing a father and wounding his wife and three children, while a car bomb against a police patrol in the city wounded four police, the colonel said.
A medical source in Baquba hospital confirmed the toll. [...]
Violence in Iraq has declined dramatically since its peak in 2006-2007, but attacks remain common, especially in Baghdad. A total of 132 Iraqis were killed in violence in May, official figures show.
Wednesday's attacks come during a political row that has seen opponents of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki mounting an attempt to oust him, but failing due to lack of numbers.
Maliki's opponents have for months accused him of monopolising decision-making and building an army loyal only to him.
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