Middle East

Baghdad car bombings target Shia pilgrims

People inspect a car used in a bomb attack in Baghdad (16 June 2012)
Image caption At least 32 people were injured in the first attack; 36 were hurt in the second

Two separate car bomb attacks targeting Shia Muslim pilgrims in Baghdad have killed at least 32 people, Iraqi officials say.

At least 14 died when the first bomb exploded on a route used by thousands of pilgrims in the Shula district.

The second blast, which happened nearby a few of hours later, killed at least 18 others, police and medics said.

On Wednesday, a wave of attacks targeting Shia pilgrims left at least 70 people dead across the country.

The Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni militant umbrella group that includes al-Qaeda, said it was behind those attacks.

It was the worst single day of violence in Iraq since the last US troops withdrew in December. There has been a marked deterioration in the country's fragile political process since then.

Iraq's most prominent Sunni Arab politician, Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, is being tried in absentia on terrorism charges. He denies financing death squads told to kill Shia government and security officials.

'Terrorists will not discourage us'

Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has also faced calls for a confidence motion in parliament from parties within his national unity government, which have accused him of breaking promises to share power.

Image caption Many Shia pilgrims are in Baghdad to mark the anniversary of the death of Moussa al-Kadhim

Thousands of Shia pilgrims had travelled to Baghdad on Saturday for the final day of the festival marking the anniversary of the death of Moussa al-Kadhim, the seventh Shia imam and great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

The first bomb, which exploded just after 12:00 (09:00 GMT) in the north-western district of Shula, was left in a taxi abandoned on a main road used by the pilgrims visiting the shrine in the Kadhimiya district where the imam is said to be buried, police said.

"We rushed to the scene, there were dismembered bodies, shoes, plastic bags, women's robes left all around, and people were screaming everywhere," Ahmed Maati, a policeman who had been working nearby, told the Reuters news agency.

The second blast took place as pilgrims were returning from Kadhimiya.

At least 32 people were injured in the first attack, while 36 were hurt in the second, officials said.

One of the 22 co-ordinated bombings on Wednesday also targeted Shia pilgrims in Kadhimiya, killing seven people. Another blast near food tents for pilgrims in the Karrada district left another 16 dead.

"The terrorists will not discourage us, even if they cut off our bodies into pieces," promised a song played over the Moussa al-Kadhim shrine's loudspeakers on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.