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Published:February 12th, 2009 14:24 EST
Shi'ite Pilgrims killed in Karbala

Shi'ite Pilgrims killed in Karbala

By SOP newswire

Iraqi officials say at least eight Shi`ite pilgrims were killed in a bomb blast Thursday as they observed one of their most important religious holidays.

Dozens of other people were wounded in the blast, near the Imam Hussein shrine in the holy city of Karbala in central Iraq.

Some reports say the explosion was caused by a roadside bomb, while others say a suicide bomber carried out the attack.

The violence follows a twin bombing that killed 16 people near a bus station in Baghdad Wednesday. That attack also happened as Shi`ite pilgrims were traveling to Karbala.

Pilgrims are gathering in Karbala, about 80 kilometers south of Baghdad, for the annual Shi`ite religious ceremony of Arbaeen. The ceremony marks the end of the 40-day mourning period following the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in the seventh century A.D.

The United Nations special representative in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, Wednesday condemned the violence as "murderous" attacks "clearly designed to provoke sectarian tensions."

Also Thursday, police said a car bomb in Mosul killed four policemen and wounded at least three other people, including two civilians, the latest in a string of attacks in the northern city.

Although overall levels of violence in Iraq are down this year, Shi`ite pilgrims have frequently been targeted by bombings, with most of the attacks blamed on Sunni extremist militants.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.