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Female bombers kill 28 during Iraq pilgrimage

Published by onlines on July 28, 2008

Target Shiites en route to Baghdad’s Kadhamiya shrine

Three female suicide bombers killed at least 28 people and wounded 92 in Baghdad on Monday as Shiite pilgrims flooded into the Iraqi capital for a major religious event, police said.

Al Qaeda has increasingly used women to carry out suicide attacks because they can often evade the more stringent security checks applied to men.

At least 1 million people are expected to visit the Kadhamiya shrine in northwestern Baghdad for the pilgrimage, which peaks on Tuesday. Iraqi security forces have clamped the area in tight security.

It was unclear if the victims were pilgrims, but the blasts were near the Karrada district in central Baghdad, an area many pilgrims would pass through on their way to the shrine.

Gunmen killed seven pilgrims in southern Baghdad on Sunday as they made their way to the shrine on foot.

Iraq has said it expects many more people to attend this year’s pilgrimage, which marks the death of one of Shiite Islam’s 12 imams, because of improved security.

Violence has fallen to four-year lows, with al-Qaeda mainly confined to the country’s north after being pushed from former strongholds in Baghdad and Iraq’s west.

Security forces had deployed a team of female guards around Kadhamiya to search women. Women have carried out more than 20 suicide attacks in Iraq this year, particularly in northwestern Diyala province.

Al Qaeda has often targeted Shiite pilgrims taking part in religious events in Iraq. It considers Shiism — the majority Muslim denomination in Iraq — heretical. Other Shiite religious events in recent months have passed relatively peacefully.

The Kadhamiya pilgrimage is one of several religious events in the Shiite calendar which have attracted millions since the fall of former president Saddam Hussein, who curbed participation in such events.

The Kadhamiya pilgrimage was marred in 2005 by one of the worst losses of life in a single incident since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, when rumors of a bomb attack triggered a stampede among pilgrims crossing a bridge leading to the shrine. Up to 1,000 people were killed.

The bridge has been closed since but is expected to reopen soon after this year’s pilgrimage. Other bridges and roads leading to Kadhamiya have been closed for the event, and a vehicle curfew would be imposed, the Iraqi military has said. (Reuters)

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