Baghdad: A car bomb targeting Shiite pilgrims killed at least 23 people near Baghdad yesterday, as hundreds protested in the capital for reforms and parliament made another attempt to reshuffle the cabinet. Iraq has been hit by weeks of political turmoil surrounding Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's efforts to change the government.
Debris lies on the ground at the site of a car bomb attack that targeted Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad. Pic/AFP
Both Washington and the United Nations have warned that the crisis could distract from the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, which carries out frequent bombings against civilians. The car bomb, which also wounded at least 38 people, struck a road in the Nahrawan area used by Shiite pilgrims who were walking to the shrine of Imam Musa Kadhim for an annual commemoration.
IS claimed the attack and said it was carried out by a suicide bomber who detonated a vehicle laden with three tonnes of explosives. Demonstrators gathered at Baghdad's Tahrir Square and near the heavily-fortified Green Zone, where the government is headquartered.
"We are sending a message to Parliament that today is the last chance" to accept "complete governmental change," said Hassanain Ali, one of the demonstrators. Abadi has called for the current government of party-affiliated ministers to be replaced with technocrats, a move opposed by powerful political parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.
Terrified residents fled a new wave of air strikes on rebel-held areas of Syria's second city Aleppo on Saturday, as a freeze in fighting held on two other fronts. Dozens of civilians left the battered district of Bustan al-Qasr early on Saturday morning.