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Car bomb kills seven Shia pilgrims in Iraq

18 November, 2012

BAGHDAD: At least seven Shia pilgrims from Iran and Pakistan were killed in Iraq on Saturday when a car bomb went off by a restaurant in a city north of the capital, police and hospital sources said.

The attack took place a few days into the holy month of Ashura, which is of special significance to Shia, who are targeted by al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate and other Sunni insurgents. Police said a parked car blew up near a restaurant on the outskirts of Balad, 80 km north of Baghdad, killing the pilgrims, who were travelling back to the capital from the Shia holy city of Samarra.

A further 25 people were wounded in the blast, medics said. Almost one year after the last US troops left Iraq, al Qaeda's local wing has vowed to revive attacks against the country's Shias in an attempt to reignite the kind of sectarian violence that drove the country to the edge of civil war four years ago.

Attacks against Shias have often increased during Ashura, when Shias commemorate the death of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)'s grandson Imam Hussain (Alaihi Salam). Tradition holds that the revered Imam (A.S.) was decapitated and his body mutilated. His body is buried in Karbala, 100 kilometres south of Baghdad. His death was a formative event in Shia Islam.

According to AFP, the bomb exploded about 1:30pm (10:30GMT) at the restaurant where three buses carrying pilgrims were parked on a highway near Balad, north of Baghdad, a police officer said.

Jawad Abdul Kadhim, the head of the Balad hospital, said the attack killed an Iranian woman and two Iraqi men and wounded 25 people, including Pakistanis.

The pilgrims were on their way to visit the Al-Askari shrine in Samarra, which militants bombed in February 2006 sparking a wave of sectarian violence that killed tens of thousands of people. Millions of people flood Karbala for the peak of the Ashura rituals, which occurs on November 25 this year.

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