Suicide car bomber kills 27 Shi'ite pilgrims in Iraq

Thu Jan 3, 2013 12:29pm EST
 

HILLA, Iraq (Reuters) - A suicide bomber driving a car killed at least 27 Shi'ite Muslims at a bus station in the Iraqi town of Mussayab on Thursday, police and medics said, as they were gathering to return home from a religious rite.

The attack, which also wounded at least 60, underlines sectarian tensions that threaten to further destabilize the country a year after U.S. troops left.

Police said the bomber drove into a busy bus station where pilgrims were catching buses back to Baghdad and the northern provinces after the Arbain rite in the holy city of Kerbala, where thousands make an annual pilgrimage.

Mussayab is 60 km (40 miles) south of the capital Baghdad.

"I was getting a sandwich when a very strong explosion rocked the place and the blast threw me away. When I regained my senses and stood up, I saw dozens of bodies," said Ali Sabbar, a pilgrim who witnessed the explosion.

"Many cars were set on fire. I just left the place and didn't even participate in the evacuation of the victims."

Arbain has been a frequent target for militants since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, who banned Shi'ite festivals.

A roadside bomb targeting a minibus transporting Shi'ite pilgrims back from Kerbala also wounded 8 people in New Baghdad.

The latest violence followed nearly two weeks of protests against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by thousands of people from the minority Sunni community in the western province of Anbar, which shares a border with Syria.   Continued...