Wave of attacks leaves dozens dead in Baghdad amid pil­grim­age

Austin American-Statesman - - THURSDAYBRIEFING - By Ti­mothy Wil­liams and Omar al-Ja­woshy

BAGHDAD — A sui­cide bomber blew him­self up among a crowd of Shi­ite pil­grims at a po­lice check­point in Baghdad on Wed­nes­day night, killing at least 32 peo­ple and wound­ing more than 90 oth­ers de­spite in­ten­sive ef­forts by Iraqi se­cu­rity forces to foil such attacks.

The sui­cide blast was just one of a se­ries of attacks across the Iraqi cap­i­tal that killed more than 50 peo­ple Wed­nes­day.

Shi­ite pil­grims are fre­quent tar­gets of Sunni in­sur­gent groups, and this year Iraqi se­cu­rity forces or­dered sev­eral ma­jor roads and bridges closed and banned bi­cy­cles and mo­tor­cy­cles in Baghdad to try to safe­guard the city as hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple take part in the an­nual pro­ces­sion to a shrine in the city’s Kaz­imiyah neigh­bor­hood.

About 200,000 se­cu­rity force mem­bers had been as­signed to pa­trol streets, check cars and search pil­grims.

The ex­plo­sion oc­curred about 7:30 p.m. in Aza­miyah, a pre­dom­i­nately Sunni neigh­bor­hood across the Ti­gris River from Kaz­imiyah, which is al­most en­tirely Shi­ite.

Omar Habib, 30, the owner of a nearby shop, said the blast was pow­er­ful enough to lift peo­ple into the air and raise a huge cloud of smoke.

“Things flew ev­ery­where. Peo­ple started run­ning,” he said. “Old peo­ple fell and got tram­pled. Sol­diers were shoot­ing into the air. It was like a horror movie.”

Also Wed­nes­day, at least seven Shi­ite pil­grims were killed in two sep­a­rate attacks in western Baghdad. Twenty-nine peo­ple were wounded in the two attacks, of­fi­cials said.

In north­ern Baghdad, a road­side bomb tar­get­ing Shi­ites killed two civil­ians and two po­lice of­fi­cers, po­lice said.

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, po­lice and hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials said two pil­grims died and seven were wounded in east­ern Baghdad when a mor­tar shell hit their pro­ces­sion. In western Baghdad, mil­i­tants blew up the homes of Iraqi se­cu­rity of­fi­cers, killing three fam­ily mem­bers.

Karim Kadim As­so­ci­Ated Press

An Iraqi sol­dier stands guard as Shi­ite pil­grims head to a shrine Wed­nes­day in Baghdad. A sui­cide bomber killed at least 32 peo­ple in just one of a string of attacks on Shi­ites in the city.

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