Middle East

Two bomb blasts strike pilgrims in Iraq city of Karbala

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Media captionThe recent increase in violence in Iraq has shattered a lengthy period of calm

Two separate car bomb attacks targeting Shia pilgrims in the Iraqi city of Karbala have killed 25 people and injured almost 70, officials say.

The first blast killed seven people and injured 18 at a terminal filled with buses carrying pilgrims to Karbala.

Hours later, another blast on the southern outskirts of the holy city left 18 people dead and 50 injured.

Last week, three suicide bombers killed 56 people and wounded 180 others along pilgrim routes to the city.

Also on Monday, two roadside bombs exploded in the capital, Baghdad.

The first bomb killed an Iraqi army intelligence officer and his driver, while at least eight passers-by were injured in the second blast.

'Enemies of Islam'

The Karbala attacks came as millions of Shia pilgrims gathered in the city to mark the end of Arbaeen, a 40-day mourning period for the death of one of the Shia sect's most revered figures, Imam Hussein, in a 7th-Century battle.

During the holy period, police have imposed a vehicle ban in Karbala, some 55 miles (90km) south of Baghdad, so pilgrims are dropped off at car parks and walk in.

An additional 120,000 police and soldiers have also been deployed.

The first bomb exploded at a bus terminal at the al-Ibrahimi area, 12.5 miles (20km) east of the city, according to a provincial chief quoted by AFP.

More than four hours later, a second car bomb struck pilgrims some 9 miles (15km) south of the city.

"We will continue to do our rites for Hussein and to visit the city in spite of the explosions, until the enemies of Islam who are carrying out these explosions get bored," Fatma Madloul, a 40-year-old pilgrim from Nassiriya told Reuters.

"We came to Kerbala to send a message to them - the more they blow us up the more determined we will be to continue on our path of defying the enemies of Iraq."

The BBC's Jim Muir, in Baghdad, says the authorities were well aware of the dangers, as previous pilgrimages have been attacked.

Strict security measures are in place, but protecting vast numbers of people travelling on foot over large areas has proven exceptionally difficult, our correspondent says.