UK & World News
Wave Of Car Bombs Kills Dozens Across Iraq
At least 65 people have died in a series of bombings and shootings targeting Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims and police across Iraq.
The co-ordinated attacks happened during a major religious festival to mark the anniversary of the death of Shi'ite imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of Prophet Mohammad.
At least 18 pilgrims were killed in one blast while another left at least nine dead as they passed through a police checkpoint in the centre of Baghdad.
"A group of pilgrims were walking and passed by a tent offering food and drinks when suddenly a car exploded near them," said Wathiq Muhana, a policeman whose patrol was stationed near the blast in the city's Karrada district.
"People were running away covered with blood and bodies were scattered on the ground," he said.
Violence in Iraq has lessened since the height of the war, but Islamist insurgents tied to al Qaeda still have a strong presence, often targeting Shi'ite pilgrims to try to reignite the sectarian tensions that drove Iraq towards civil war between 2006 and 2007.
Extra security and checkpoints have been in place this week as thousands of pilgrims arrived in Baghdad to meet at a shrine in the capital's northern Kadhimiyah district for the Shi'ite religious festival.
In a separate attack on Wednesday in the mainly Shi'ite southern city of Hilla, police said two car bombs, including one detonated by a suicide bomber, exploded outside restaurants used by security forces, killing 22 people and wounding 38.
"When a minibus packed with policemen stopped near the restaurants, a car exploded near the bus," said Maitham Sahib, owner of a restaurant near the blast site. "It was heartbreaking ... just sirens, and screams of wounded people."
Two more car bombs killed four people in the Shi'ite city of Balad, a car bomb in Kerbala killed three and wounded 17 and another car bomb in Haswa, 30 miles (50 km) south of Baghdad, killed one person, and wounded four.
Five soldiers were also killed by gunmen in an attack on an army checkpoint in the south of the capital, police said.
Political tensions have been high in Iraq since the last American troops left in December, with the fragile government - split among Sunni-backed, Shi'ite and ethnic Kurdish blocs - feuding over their power-sharing accord.
Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is fending off attempts by Sunni, Kurdish and some Shi'ite rivals to organise a vote of no confidence against him.
Critics accuse him of trying to consolidate his position and failing to fulfil promises to share power among the blocs.