Page last updated at 15:06 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Iraq bomb explosions leave 23 people dead


A bus terminal and taxi rank were attacked in Hilla

A series of bomb attacks has killed at least 23 people in Iraq.

The latest attacks, which appeared to target Shia Muslims, saw eight people killed in predominately Shia areas of the capital Baghdad.

Earlier, a twin bomb blast in Hilla, 100km (62 miles) south of Baghdad, killed at least 15 people.

Shia pilgrims are celebrating the festival of Ashura, and security has been increased around the country to prevent attacks by Sunni militants.

One of the most important dates in the Shia religious calendar, Ashura is a day of mourning to commemorate the martyrdom in 680 AD of the revered Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

Five people were killed at a Shia funeral in Baghdad when a bomb went off in a tent where mourners were gathered in the suburb of Sadr City, police and hospital officials told the Associated Press.

Three died in a second blast in the eastern district of Zaafaraniya.

Scores wounded

The day's first blast, in a bus and taxi station in Hilla, reportedly went off as a bomb disposal experts were trying to defuse a roadside bomb.

Officials say this blast was not aimed at Shia pilgrims.


A local leader was among the dead and scores of others were wounded, Reuters news agency reported.

The bomb disposal team had arrived at the bus station to defuse a device when a car next to the place they were working suddenly exploded, officials said.

That explosion set off the bomb they were defusing.

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