Blasts Remind Iraqis Of Fragile State Of Security

Shiite pilgrims approach the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadham. i i

hide captionShiite pilgrims approach the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadham in Baghdad. Suicide attacks on pilgrims and on a political rally in Kirkuk killed at least 57 people, raising questions about security in Iraq.

Karim Kadim/AP
Shiite pilgrims approach the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadham.

Shiite pilgrims approach the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadham in Baghdad. Suicide attacks on pilgrims and on a political rally in Kirkuk killed at least 57 people, raising questions about security in Iraq.

Karim Kadim/AP

Four suicide attacks in Baghdad and Kirkuk have killed at least 57 people and wounded scores more, reminding Iraqis that things aren't as safe as their government and U.S. officials would have them believe.

On Monday, three female suicide bombers blew themselves up in Baghdad near Shiite pilgrims marching toward the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadham. The march, which ends Tuesday, is an annual rite for Shiites who are commemorating the death of their revered saint. The pilgrimage has also become a favorite target for insurgents trying to shake people's faith in their government and stir up sectarian strife. For days, Iraqi officials tried to tell citizens that this year's observance would be different. But now, officials are bracing for even more trouble Tuesday.

After Monday's blasts, Iraqi police officers and soldiers quickly tightened checkpoints and imposed a ban on car use in Baghdad. Critics of the Iraqi government say the attacks underscore why security in Iraq is still a concern.

"We have said from the beginning that the security situation is very fragile," says Sunni lawmaker Salih al Muttlaq, a frequent critic of the Shiite-led government. "The violence could come back again at any time."

The attacks, however, did little to deter Shiite pilgrims, who continued marching toward the shrine. By Tuesday, their numbers are expected to reach 1 million.

"Even if there are threats, we sacrifice ourselves to God," says Abbas Kadham, 40, who has walked from the city of Kut 70 miles away.

In the northern, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, it was politics that drew Monday's suicide bomber.

The attacker targeted a crowd of Kurdish demonstrators who were protesting a controversial law passed last week that paves the way for local elections to be held everywhere except in Kirkuk.

Anmar Ismail, a local radio correspondent who witnessed the attack, says he was hit by shrapnel in his left leg. He says local security forces began firing their guns, adding to the chaos.

The blast prompted some protesters to try to storm a nearby political office of rival Turkmen, whom they blamed for the attack.

Authorities have imposed a curfew on both cities in hopes of preventing further violence.

Suicide Bombings In Baghdad, Kirkuk Kill Dozens

Female suicide bombers in Baghdad and the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk killed at least 46 people and wounded hundreds more in attacks Monday, police said.

Three attackers within one mile of each other detonated bombs in quick succession as tens of thousands of Shiite worshippers streamed toward a shrine in northern Baghdad for the annual Kazimiyah pilgrimage, marking the death of an eighth-century saint. At least 24 people were killed in that series of explosions.

In the northern oil city of Kirkuk, another suicide bomber killed at least 22 people and wounded nearly 80 others at a demonstration against Iraq's provincial elections law, an Iraqi police official said.

"Our preliminary reports are indicating a person-borne improvised explosive device detonated in Kirkuk," the U.S. military said in a statement.

A subsequent gunfight between guards at the political office and people in the crowd led to another person being killed. The city is now under a police-imposed curfew.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Baghdad blasts.

During the Kazimiyah pilgrimage in 2005, at least 1,000 people were killed in a bridge stampede caused by rumors of a suicide bomber.

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