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As politicians bicker, burst of attacks kills 50 in Baghdad

Shi’ite pilgrims among targets in political vacuum

A soldier guarded near the shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim in Baghdad where a suicide bombing yesterday killed 32 pilgrims. A soldier guarded near the shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim in Baghdad where a suicide bombing yesterday killed 32 pilgrims. (Saad Shalash /Reuters)
By Barbara Surk
Associated Press / July 8, 2010

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BAGHDAD — Militants struck across the Iraqi capital yesterday, killing 50 people, including 32 in a suicide bombing that targeted pilgrims commemorating a revered Shi’ite saint, Iraqi police said.

The attacks — the deadliest of which occurred in northern Baghdad’s predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah — indicated a push by insurgents to exploit Iraq’s political vacuum and destabilize the country as US troops start heading home.

Police said the suicide bombing that killed 32 and wounded more than 90 people split the hot evening air as pilgrims were about to cross a bridge leading to a shrine in the Shi’ite Kazimiyah neighborhood, where Moussa al-Kadhim, the seventh imam, is buried.

Militants were able to strike even as security forces were on high alert in the capital, where Shi’ite pilgrims from all over Iraq converged on a mosque in the northern Baghdad neighborhood to mark the anniversary of the death of Kadhim.

A vehicle ban was in place across Kazimiyah, and 200,000 members of security forces were deployed along the way to the shrine, searching pilgrims for weapons at various checkpoints.

The suicide attack occurred near the bridge where 900 people died in 2005 in a stampede sparked by a rumor that a suicide bomber was among the more than 1 million people gathered at the Kazimiyah shrine to mark the date of the imam’s death.

Iraq has been without a new government since the March 7 election, which produced no clear winner. Bickering between opposing political blocs vying to lead the country has raised fears that insurgents are exploiting the uncertainty to reignite sectarian bloodshed.

Earlier this week US Vice President Joe Biden met with senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad to urge them to select new leaders for Iraq’s wobbly democracy without further delays. Biden met with two main contestants for the prime minister post, Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite who currently heads the government, and his Sunni-backed rival Ayad Allawi, who narrowly won the March vote. Biden asked the two men to compromise.

The suicide bombing was the most deadly of several attacks yesterday:

■At least seven pilgrims were killed in two separate attacks in the Harthiya neighborhood in western Baghdad. Twenty-nine people were wounded in the two attacks, police and hospital officials said.

■In northern Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting devout Shi’ites killed two civilians and two policemen on patrol near by, police officials said.

■Two pilgrims died and seven were wounded in eastern Baghdad when a mortar shell hit their procession.

■ In western Baghdad, militants blew up the homes of two police officers, two members of the Awakening Council, which opposed Al Qaeda, and an ambulance driver in dawn attacks in Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib. None of the targeted men were at home at the time of the attacks, but three of the men’s relatives were killed, police and hospital officials said.

■Also in Abu Ghraib, an Iraqi soldier was killed and six were wounded when a suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden car into an Army checkpoint. A bomb attached to a car of a police officer exploded in the same western Baghdad suburb, killing his mother and wounding his wife, police officials said.

■In the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, a police major was killed when a bomb attached to his car detonated as he drove to work, police said.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

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