Female suicide bomber kills 54 by detonating explosives among Shiite pilgrims
parliamentary elections, which are seen as a critical step in reconciliation between the majority Shiites and the Sunnis who lost control with the toppling of Saddam Hussein.
The latest attack was another blow — but not entirely unexpected.
Shiite pilgrims are easy targets for bombers who can mingle with the crowds streaming on roads to shrines and other sites. The current pilgrimage is one of the largest.
Hundreds of thousands of people are walking this week toward Karbala in southern Iraq before the culmination of religious events Friday — marking the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death Imam Hussein, a revered Shiite figure.
Iraqi security forces have promised to protect the pilgrims with expanded patrols and checkpoints. But Monday’s bombing shows the huge challenges of trying to find a single attacker among the throng.
The bomber hid the explosives beneath an abaya — a woman’s black cloak worn from head to toe — as she joined a group of pilgrims on the outskirts of Baghdad’s Shiite-dominated neighbourhood of Shaab, said Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, Baghdad’s top military spokesman.
The bomber set off the blast — described as a huge fireball — as she lined up with other women to be searched by female security guards at a checkpoint just inside a rest tent serving sherbet and tea.
People were “on the ground, covered in blood and crying for help. Banners were all over the ground and covered in blood,” said witness Raheem Kadhom, 35.
The blast was so powerful it blew some people out of their slippers and shoes, which were scattered across the ground, he said. Many of the wounded were loaded into cars instead of waiting for ambulances.
A police official said 54 people, including 18 women and 12 children, were killed and 117 were wounded. A hospital official confirmed the casualties. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. ATHENS (AP) — Somali pirates freed a Greek-owned cargo ship Monday and its 22-member crew held since November after receiving a ransom payment, officials in Greece said.
A coast guard statement said the Filitsa was heading for the Kenyan port of Mombasa along with its crew— three Greeks, 18 Filipinos and a Romanian. Officials said the crew members were all in good health.
The ship’s owner, Order Shipping, confirmed that a ransom had been paid but refused to declare the sum. NEW YORK (AP) — A federal grand jury has charged the father of an airport driver accused in a New York terrorism plot with conspiring to obstruct a criminal investigation of the matter.
A newly unsealed court charge says Mohammed Wali Zazi conspired to conceal or destroy evidence in the terrorism probe. His son Najibullah Zazi was charged in September with plotting to attack New York City with homemade bombs.
The indictment accuses Mohammed Zazi of obstructing the investigation. The items that he allegedly conspired to destroy or conceal include liquid chemicals and containers.
The elder Zazi lives in Colorado.