Attacks in Iraq around Ashoura holiday kill 21


One of the deadliest of Wednesday's attacks targeted a group of Shiites commemorating the Ashoura holiday in the eastern Iraqi city of Baqouba, a former al-Qaida stronghold, a police officer said. That attack killed eight people, including two children, and wounded 35, the officer said.

Baqouba is located about 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

The Shiites are marking Ashoura, the holiday commemorating the death of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. The holiday draws hundreds of thousands of Shiites to mourning ceremonies. Sunni extremists also target those marking the holiday, as they consider Shiites to be heretics.

Meanwhile Wednesday, a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a police checkpoint outside the northern city of Tikrit, killing five police officers and three civilians, another police officer said. The bombing wounded 18, the officer said.

Tikrit is 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad.

Militants also detonated bombs near police officers' homes in the town of Karmah, killing four people and wounding 24, police said. Karmah is 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Baghdad.

In Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, a bomb targeting a police patrol killed one officer and wounded seven, police said.

Four medical officials confirmed the casualty figures from the attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to publicly release the figures.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's attacks, but suicide attacks and bombings, especially against Iraqi forces and Shiites, are a favorite tactic of al-Qaida's local branch. The group recently escalated its campaign of violence in order to thwart the Shiite-led government's efforts to maintain security.

Violence spiked in Iraq since a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in April, with the pace of killing reaching levels unseen since 2008, leaving more than 5,500 people died since then, according to United Nations figures. Wednesday's attacks bring the death toll across the country this month to 133, according to an Associated Press count.

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