Middle East News
Female suicide bomber kills at least 40 pilgrims (1st Lead)
Feb 13, 2009, 11:34 GMT
Baghdad - A woman in the Iraqi town of Iskandariyah killed at least 40 people and wounded at least 83 more, mostly women and children, when she detonated explosives strapped to her body on Friday, a police spokesman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
Police said the woman concealed the explosives under her abaya, a long, traditional gown, and infiltrated a crowd of women and children on pilgrimage to Karbala.
Ambulances and police quickly rushed to the scene, and soldiers sealed off the area, police said, adding that casualty figures could rise throughout the day.
Iskandariyah is some 60 kilometres south of Baghdad.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric, on Friday condemned the string of recent attacks on pilgrims making their way to Karbala to commemorate the death of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Hussein, at the Battle of Karbala in the year 680.
The Friday attack followed another bomb targeting pilgrims that killed at least 10 people in Karbala on Thursday. At least 56 people were injured in the blast, many of them critically, hospital workers told dpa on Friday.
At a press conference on Friday, the governor of Karbala, Aqil al- Khazali, hinted that investigators had identified the culprit in Thursday's bombing.
'We have secret information about the involvement of some bodies in the explosion that took place on Thursday,' al-Khazali told reporters, without elaborating.
Hundreds of thousands of Shiites walk to his shrine in Karbala, 130 kilometres south of Baghdad, over the course of the 'Arbaine,' or 40 days of mourning, every year, in a ritual that will reach its conclusion on Monday.
On Friday, authorities in Karbala said some 125,000 pilgrims had already arrived. Security is tight for the event, with soldiers deployed around the area's holy sites.