Iraq suicide bomb kills 50 in Basra pilgrims attack

The attack happened at a checkpoint used by Shia pilgrims

At least 50 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack on Shia pilgrims in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, Iraqi police and security sources say.

The attack was aimed at pilgrims marking the festival of Arbain, one of the main holy days of the Shia calendar, reports say.

Security had been tight amid fears of insurgent attacks during the festival.

Scores of people have been killed in attacks on pilgrims in the last few weeks, reports say.

Medical sources in Basra say they have also treated 91 people injured in the attack.

The attacker targeted Muslim Shia pilgrims at a checkpoint they use on their way to a major Shia mosque in the Zubeir district, some 20km (12 miles) south-west of Basra.

The area is frequented at this time of the Muslim calendar by Shia Muslims in southern Iraq who are unable to reach the shrines of the main holy city of Karbala further north, says the BBC's Nahed Abouzeid in Baghdad.

"A terrorist wearing a police uniform and carrying fake police ID managed to reach a police checkpoint and blew himself up among police and pilgrims," a police official at the scene of the bombing is quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Victims are said to include several policemen.

Iraq map
Tensions

The violence comes only weeks after US troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq and amid a political crisis, which has seen tensions rise between the country's Shia majority and Sunni minority.

Last month, the Shia-dominated government called for Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi's arrest on terrorism charges.

Last week, at least 72 people were killed in bomb attacks targeting Shia Muslims in southern Iraq and the capital, Baghdad. Forty-five of the victims were pilgrims in the city of Nasiriya.

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