The bloodshed was a stark reminder of the political tensions threatening to provoke a new round of sectarian violence that once pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war. The pilgrims were headed to the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah to mark the anniversary of the death of a revered Shiite saint who is interred there.
The first bomb struck a procession in the town of Taji, north of Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding two, two police officers said. That was followed by four more morning blasts that hit other groups of pilgrims across the capital, killing 25 people and wounding more than 70, according to police and health officials.
South of Baghdad, two car bombs exploded minutes apart at dawn in the centre of the city of Hillah, killing 21 people and wounding 53, according to two police officers and one health worker. A parked car bomb also exploded near a group of pilgrims in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, 90 km south of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding 22 others, a police official said. Two nearly simultaneous car bombs also killed seven pilgrims and wounded 34 in the Shiite town of Balad, 80 km north of Baghdad, a police official said.
The attacks targetted the annual pilgrimage that sees hundreds of Shiites converge on Baghdad to commemorate the 8th century death of revered Imam Moussa al-Kadhim. Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but they bore the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents who frequently target Shiite pilgrimages in Iraq.