BAGHDAD: A wave of coordinated bombings and shootings rocked Iraq during a major Shiite religious commemoration on Wednesday, killing at least 59 people and wounding more than 200, many of them pilgrims.
The attacks, which came as pilgrims were heading to shrines to commemorate the death anniversary of Imam Musa Kadhim, the seventh of 12 revered imams in Shiite Islam, are the deadliest to hit Iraq since 68 people were killed on January 5.
An AFP journalist was among those wounded when a car bomb exploded in the northern city of Kirkuk.
Baghdad was hit early morning by a spate of 10 bombs and two shootings which killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens, a medical official and an official from the interior ministry said.
The deadliest attack saw a car bomb explode in an area of Karrada neighbourhood in central Baghdad where pilgrims were eating breakfast in tents, officials said.
Human remains were scattered across the street, while cars and shops in the area were damaged, an AFP correspondent said.
The attack, in which 16 people died and 32 were wounded, appeared aimed at the Shiite pilgrims, who on Wednesday were flocking in their tens of thousands to the Imam Kadhim shrine in Baghdad’s northern neighbourhood of Kadhimiyah.
Another car bomb on the outskirts of Kadhimiyah, which security and medical officials said killed at least four people, left a hole two metres (yards) deep in a street, damaged cars and destroyed a number of makeshift houses.
“I could not see for more than two metres because of the smoke and dust,” said a resident, Abdul Zahra Abdul Saad, adding that the blast occurred about 5:00 am (0200 GMT). “I took out three people, two children and an old woman. They were all dead.”
Coordinated attacks took place across other centres, including in the central city of Hilla, where a police captain and doctor Ali al-Khafajiat the main hospital said two car bombs killed 19 people and wounded 48 others.
The attacks on Shiite pilgrims was a stark reminder of the sectarian violence that tore Iraq apart in 2006-07.
The violence has declined dramatically since that peak, but attacks remain common, especially in Baghdad. A total of 132 Iraqis were killed in May, official figures show.
Ten people, meanwhile, were killed Wednesday in a wave of attacks in and around Baquba, north of Baghdad.
Gunmen also attacked a house north of Baquba, killing a father and wounding his wife and three children, while a car bomb against a police patrol in the city wounded four police, the colonel said.
Another car bomb, two roadside bombs and two shootings killed four more people and wounded at least 30 in Baquba, according to an army lieutenant colonel and doctor Ahmed Ibrahim from Baquba General Hospital.
And a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army patrol south of the city, killing one soldier and wounding four others, the sources said.
In the northern city of Kirkuk, three car bombs killed two people and wounded at least 17 more, the interior ministry official and doctor Nabil Hamdi Mushnaq from Kirkuk hospital said.
Marwan Ibrahim, a 34-year-old journalist who has worked for AFP since 2003, was wounded by a car bomb while reporting on the attacks in Kirkuk.
In other incidents, five people were killed and 30 wounded in two car bombs in Balad, north of Baghdad, including one which targeted the local headquarters of the Shiite endowment.
Car bombs in Al-Azizyah, south of Baghdad, and in the restive north Iraq city of Mosul killed a total of four people, while 24 people were wounded in a blast just north of the holy city of Karbala in central Iraq.
Along with the security forces, the Shiite majority in Iraq has been a main target of Sunni Arab armed groups since the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled now executed dictator Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime.
Wednesday’s attacks come during a political row that has seen opponents of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki mounting an attempt to oust him, but so far failing due to a lack of votes.
Maliki’s opponents have for months accused him of monopolising decision-making and moving toward dictatorship.