At least 21 killed in Iraq on religious holiday

At least 21 killed in Iraq on religious holiday
Attacks against Shiites in Iraq killed at least 21 people ahead of a religious festival on Wednesday. Three bombs ripped through a crowd preparing to mark the death of a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. A separate car bomb attack killed 10 others.

The Shiite Muslims were killed by militants during Ashura - a festival commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, who died over 1,000 years ago. The group was gathered in the eastern city of Baqouba.

Nine people died in the Baqouba attack alone, police and medics told Reuters. “We were crying on the death of our Imam Hussain, and now our sadness is turned into the death of the brothers that were killed today,” 30-year-old Ali Zuhair told The New York Times.

A further suicide car bomb attack killed 10 people at a police checkpoint in the northern city of Tikrit.

“A truck driver reached the checkpoint and when asked by police to pull over, a powerful blast happened, killing two policemen and eight innocent passers-by,” police colonel Khalid Mahdi said.

Four people were also killed west of Baghdad near the homes of police officers. A further officer was also reported dead in a separate bombing, AP reported.

Shiite Muslims are deemed renegades by Sunni militants who have been gaining momentum in the country this year. Over 7,000 people have died in attacks since January.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants frequently target Shiite dominated areas and security personnel, as the insurgents aim to destabilize the Shiite-led government. However, no identifiable group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Following the withdrawal of US troops in December 2011, Iraq has plunged deeper into inter-ethnic violence each day, prompted by ever-growing tensions.