Double bombing kills at least 32 in Iraq


BAGHDAD — A double bombing Friday in the southern city of Karbala
killed at least 32 people and wounded over 100 as hundreds of thousands
of pilgrims commemorated a major Shiite Muslim holy day.

The attack took place at the eastern entrance to the city as pilgrims from around Iraq
were leaving the commemorations in the city center. First a car bomb
exploded near a hospitality tent erected to offer refreshments, killing
10 people, according to Karbala
police. Moments later a suicide bomber driving a car plowed into the
carnage left by the first explosion, and killed another 22.

It was the third major attack against pilgrims this
week, and coincided with a sharp escalation in violence ahead of
crucial national elections due in March. More than 70 pilgrims died in
two other suicide bombings earlier this week as they headed for Karbala to mark the Arbaeen, or 40th, day of mourning for Imam Hussein, the seventh-century grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

Overall, there have been eight suicide bombings in Iraq
the past 11 days, targeting hotels and government buildings as well as
pilgrims, in a sign that the Sunni extremist insurgency appears to be
regrouping in an attempt to destabilize the country ahead of the March 7 election.

U.S. officials blame al-Qaeia in Iraq for most suicide attacks, but the Iraqi government also accuses members of the former Baath Party that ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

The start of the election campaign has been delayed
by a dispute over whether hundreds of candidates with alleged ties to
the Baath Party may participate, a dispute that has sharply escalated
tensions between the ruling Shiite religious parties and the secular
and Sunni groups who are hoping to unseat them.

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