Suicide bomber kills 53 in pilgrim attack

2012-01-14 19:29

Basra - A suicide bomber killed 53 people in an apparent sectarian attack in southern Iraq on Saturday, casting a pall over the conclusion of a Shiite Muslim pilgrimage that draws millions.

The attack on devotees on the outskirts of Basra, which left 137 wounded, came with Iraq mired in a political row pitting the Shi'ite-led government against the main Sunni-backed bloc and stoked sectarian tensions less than a month after US forces completed their pullout.

The violence was the latest in a spate of attacks against Shi'ite pilgrims in the two weeks leading to the conclusion of Arbaeen, which marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shi'ite Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.

The death toll was the highest since attacks on Shi'ites in Baghdad and southern Iraq killed 70 people on December 5, and the deadliest single attack in the country since March 2011.

The attacker, who had been distributing cake and other food to pilgrims walking to the Khutwa Imam Ali, a site on the outskirts of Basra venerated by believers for its associations with a key figures of their faith, blew himself up near a security checkpoint.

"I saw a soldier take hold of the attacker to take him to the officer in charge," said Kadhim Nasser, who ran a nearby rest stop for pilgrims. "As he was pushing him, something happened and the soldier fell to the ground."

"Immediately, he blew himself up. When he did that, women and children were passing by. I saw dozens of women and children among the wounded," the 42-year-old added.

Pilgrims in southern Iraq who cannot visit the central shrine city of Karbala to mark Arbaeen typically make the shorter trip to Khutwa Imam Ali, which lies around 12km west of Basra.

Hundreds of thousands did make it to Karbala on Saturday amid massive security in face of the Sunni insurgent threat.

Officials said 15 million pilgrims have passed through the city in the past two weeks leading up to the end of the commemorations, including about 500 000 from outside Iraq.

About 35 000 police and troops were deployed to provide security throughout the rituals, with a further two brigades added to protect pilgrims heading home, said Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanimi, who commands forces across central Iraq.

He said no incidents had been reported in Karbala.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    iraq
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Habana believes in younger Boks
All Blacks ready for a 'hell of a battle'
Barnes to ref Boks, Wales clash
Brave Blossoms: 'Sport heroes of Japan'
Traffic Alerts

Your incisive and innovative mind is on fire. You may be keen to explore new avenues that can help to inspire you. You more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.