Fresh Iraq bombings hit Shia pilgrims in Baghdad

Iraqi security forces in Kadhimiya, Baghdad, 8 July Thousands of extra Iraqi police and soldiers have been deployed

At least five people have been killed by bombs targeting Shia pilgrims in Baghdad, Iraqi officials say.

Four people died when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, while a car bomb in southern Baghdad killed at least one more person.

The attacks come one day after bombings across Baghdad killed at least 40 pilgrims and injured more than 100.

One million pilgrims are expected to gather at the Moussa al-Kadhim shrine on the final day of the festival.

The attacks come despite a vast security operation. Thousands of extra police and military officers have been drafted onto the streets of Baghdad and vehicle traffic has been restricted.

Shias targeted

Analysis

Gabriel Gatehouse

The nature of the conflict has changed since mid-2007, when sectarian violence in Iraq was at its height.

Today we have an insurgency which, while reduced in size and capability, still carries out attacks on a daily basis.

Their targets fall generally into three categories: members of the Iraqi or American armed forces; government buildings or institutions; and large religious events.

By targeting Shia pilgrims, it seems clear that the bombers are intent on reigniting that sectarian violence which nearly tore the country apart.

However, this spark does not appear to be catching fire. Despite the horror of these bombings, Iraqis in general are not turning against their fellow countrymen of the opposite sect.

At least four people died in Bab al-Muazam neighbourhood when a roadside bomb exploded as pilgrims were walking home from the mosque in Kadhimiya, officials said.

Meanwhile, a car bomb in southern Mashtal area killed at least one other person. About 80 people were injured in the two blasts, the AFP news agency reported.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but similar attacks in the past have been blamed on extremist Sunni groups.

Just a day earlier, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest as he walked among pilgrims in Baghdad's predominantly Sunni Adhamiya district, killing at least 30 people.

It was the deadliest in a series of explosions targeting the worshippers that killed more than 40 people and wounded 100 more.

Despite the bombs the worshippers continued to stream into the city to mark the anniversary of the death of Imam Kadhim, the seventh of 12 holy figures who defined the Shia faith.

"There was a blast [on Wednesday] carried out by base-minded people, killing the elderly, women and children," pilgrim Abdul Zahra told the BBC. "We will not be deterred by blasts and we will continue observing our rituals."

US handover

The annual event is frequently hit by tragedy.

Map

Last year, two female suicide bombers blew themselves near the shrine, killing 65 people, including 20 Iranian pilgrims.

And in 2005, nearly 1,000 pilgrims were killed in a stampede on the Imams Bridge, which crosses the River Tigris between Kadhimiya and Adhamiya, after rumours spread that a suicide bomber was walking among them.

The attacks come one year after Iraqi forces took over control of security in Iraq's towns and cities from the US military.

Confidence in their ability to protect the population, especially at large religious events such as this one is still fragile, says the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad.

The US is speeding up the pace of its withdrawal, aiming to reduce its presence to 50,000 non-combat troops by the end of next month, in preparation for a full military departure by 2012.

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