Pil­grims, jour­nal­ists tar­geted across Iraq

Austin American-Statesman - - TUESDAYBRIEFING -

BAGHDAD — Two car bombs tar­get­ing Shi­ite pil­grims dur­ing a re­li­gious fes­ti­val in the holy city of Kar­bala killed 25 peo­ple Mon­day, Iraqi po­lice and hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials said.

Mil­i­tants det­o­nated two parked cars filled with ex­plo­sives about two miles apart as crowds of pil­grims passed by. Po­lice and med­i­cal of­fi­cials in Kar­bala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, said 68 peo­ple were in­jured.

The pil­grims were on their way to Kar­bala for an im­por­tant hol­i­day known as Sha­baniyah, which at­tracts Shi­ites from across the coun­try.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity, but the method is the hall­mark of Sunni ex­trem­ists.

Ear­lier Mon­day in Baghdad, a sui­cide bomber driv­ing a minibus blew him­self up in front of the Baghdad of­fice of pop­u­lar Ara­bic news sta­tion Al-Ara­biya, killing six peo­ple and bury­ing a law­maker alive un­der the rub­ble of his col­lapsed home, po­lice and hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials said.

Al Qaeda in Iraq took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the bomb­ing.

Al­though the news­room it­self was spared, the at­tack was a bru­tal re­minder of the dangers Iraqis face in prac­tic­ing jour­nal­ism, which they have had the free­dom to do for only seven years. The war has been the dead­li­est in his­tory for jour­nal­ists. More than 140 have been killed in Iraq since the war be­gan, the vast ma­jor­ity of them Iraqis, ac­cord­ing to the New York­based Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists.

Al-Ara­biya is among the most pop­u­lar Ara­bic news sta­tions, but mil­i­tants view it as pro-Western.

The bomber made i t through two check­points, cast­ing fur­ther doubts on the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Iraqi se­cu­rity forces as U.S. com­bat troops pre­pare to pull out next month. Mem­bers of Al-Ara­biya’s se­cu­rity depart­ment were ar­rested, an Iraqi mil­i­tary spokesman said, with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

The mas­sive blast blew out win­dows in the two-story build­ing and left much of the in­te­rior in shambles, with doors hang­ing off their frames. The street out­side was lit­tered with the smol­der­ing hulks of at least nine cars.

Three guards, a driver, a passer-by and a 50-year-old cleaner died in the blast, po­lice and hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials said. The at­tack also wounded 16 peo­ple, in­clud­ing par­lia­ment mem­ber and for­mer Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Salam al-Zubaie. Zubaie was res­cued from un­der the rub­ble of his home and un­der­went surgery, an of­fi­cial in the law­maker’s of­fice said.

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