Bomb attacks on Shi'ites, Iraqi police kill 48

Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:21pm GMT

By Muhanad Mohammed and Aseel Kami

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least 48 people were killed in Iraq on Thursday in bombings targeting Shi'ite pilgrims and police, a third day of bloodshed that posed a challenge to Iraqi security forces as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw.

Most of the dead were pilgrims pouring into the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala ahead of the culmination of a major religious rite which is regularly attacked by Sunni Islamist al Qaeda.

Two car bombs killed 45 people near Kerbala, 80 km south of Baghdad, on different roads into the city, said Mohammed al-Moussawi, head of the Kerbala provincial council.

Around 150 people were wounded in the two explosions on the outskirts of the city outside a security cordon of checkpoints set up to protect the pilgrims who walk for days from cities across Iraq and come from neighbouring countries, he said.

"Two cars parked outside the checkpoints to the city exploded at the same time," Moussawi said.

An official from the Health Ministry in Baghdad put the death toll at 50, and said 203 were wounded, while police and Interior Ministry sources in the capital said they had heard suicide bombers wearing explosive vests were involved.

Earlier, a suicide bomber drove a car into a police headquarters in volatile Diyala province, killing at least three people and wounding around 30, the latest in a series of attacks against the security forces that began on Tuesday.

Around 65 people have died in the assaults on police, including 49 police recruits lining up to get jobs in former dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on Tuesday.   Continued...

<p>Security personnel inspect the site of a bomb attack in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, January 19, 2011. REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi</p>
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