M A I N   N E W S

Blasts in Iraqi mosques leave 140 dead

Moments after the attacks, a youth runs past the victims and burning debris
Moments after the attacks, a youth runs past the victims and burning debris at the site of bomb blasts in Karbala, Iraq, on Tuesday. — AP/PTI photo

Karbala, March 2
At least 140 persons were killed today as Shia Muslims came under attack in coordinated attacks in the cities of Karbala and Baghdad, on the deadliest day in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

As Shias marked the solemn holy day of Ashura, a series of blasts killed 85 persons and injured 240 in their sacred city of Karbala, south of the capital, the judge investigating the attacks, Ahmed al-Hillali, said.

Interim Health Minister Khdeir Abbas said at least 54 were killed in Baghdad, 110 km to the north. As many as 300 were injured.

The combined toll made it the deadliest day since Saddam was overthrown by a US-led coalition in April, overtaking the some 105 killed in twin anti-Kurdish suicide bombings in the northern city of Arbil on February 1.

The Karbala blasts were a coordinated attack involving a suicide bomber and other devices, US Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt said, giving a casualty toll of 85 dead and some 230 injured.

Jordanian national Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, suspected of links to the al-Qaida terror network, is a “chief suspect” in the bloody attacks, the general told a Baghdad press conference.

Hillali said nine suicide blasts were to blame for the carnage.

He said four of the bombs went off in Karbala near Baghdad Gate on the way to the shrine of Hussain, the revered Shia Imam whose death in a battle in 680 AD was being mourned by hundreds of thousands when the blasts occurred. Three bombs exploded near the Al-Mahdi mosque, not far from the shrine of Abbas, Hussain’s half-brother, and two near a pilgrims’ camp on the outskirts of Karbala, he added.

Iraq’s interim Governing Council declared three days of mourning and a Shia party official said the signing of a new temporary constitution was being delayed.

The Karbala and Baghdad bloodshed came as Iraq’s Shia majority marked the killing in battle of the Prophet Mohammaed’s grandson Hussain publicly for the first time in decades, in ceremonies which were banned under Saddam.

“I saw a man running into a group of Iranian pilgrims and exploding himself,” Karbala police Capt Mahdi Ghanami said “The bomb claimed 25 victims.”

In the capital, security guards said four suicide attackers blew themselves up at the Kazimiyah mosque in northwest Baghdad, while Kimmitt said three were involved.

“There were four suicide attackers. One blew himself up at the entrance of the mosque, the other in the heart of the building, and the other two at a side entrance,” said Diya Ismail, one of the guards. — AFPBack

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