Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Pilgrims killed in explosion in Iraqi city of Karbala

Imam Hussein shrine Karbala 3 February
The pilgrimage to the shrine in Karbala is a key point of the Shia faith

A suicide bombing in the Iraqi city of Karbala has killed at least 20 pilgrims travelling to a Shia festival.

Scores were wounded in the attack on the route to an important Shia shrine, health officials said.

A bomber had driven a car into the crowd before it exploded, Iraqi police told BBC News, correcting earlier claims he had been riding a motorcycle.

On Monday a female suicide bomber killed at least 41 and wounded more than 100 people in north-east Baghdad.

The pilgrims were making their way to the Imam Hussein shrine in the city where Shia Muslims are to mark Arbaeen, the end of 40 days of mourning for the death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

The bomb went off on one of the three routes into the city.

Earlier reports incorrectly stated the suicide bomber had been towing an explosive-laden cart on a motorcycle.

March elections

It was the latest, and most serious, of a string of attacks targeting pilgrims on Wednesday.

The first bomb went off in the early morning in western Baghdad, killing one person and wounding three.

Another explosion in south-west Baghdad wounded four pilgrims, Associated Press reported.

Tens of thousands of Shias, many from neighbouring Iran, are expected at the shrine before the festival's end on Friday.

The bombing raises fears of heightened sectarian violence before Iraq's March elections.

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