More than 70 people were killed in attacks that targeted Shi’ite pilgrims in Baghdad and in other parts of Iraq during a major religious festival, it was reported.
“A group of pilgrims were walking and passed by a tent offering food and drinks when suddenly a car exploded near them,” policeman Wathiq Muhana, who was nearby, told Reuters. The blast took place in central Karrada District.
“People were running away covered with blood, and bodies were scattered on the ground,” he added.
There were at least four bomb blasts reported in Baghdad.
Police in the southern city of Hilla, which is inhabited mainly by Shi’ites, said that two car bombs went off at the same time near restaurants, including a suicide attack, killing 22 people.
Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi called the attacks a move “to provoke sectarian strife,” according to AFP.
Dhia al-Wakeel, the head of the Baghdad military command spokesperson, said that while the attacks are intended to initiate clashes between sects, “Iraqis are fully aware of the terrorism agenda and will not slip into a sectarian conflict,” according to The Associated Press.
In previous sectarian attacks, Sunni al-Qaeda militants claimed responsibility and were targeting the country’s majority Shi’ite government.
“These violent acts reflect the depth of the political crisis in the country and the escalation of political differences among blocs,” Abdul-Sataar al-Jumaili, of the Sunni political bloc Iraqiya, was quoted by AP as saying.