Wave of attacks leaves dozens dead in Baghdad amid pilgrimage
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.
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.