Suicide attacker kills 30; Shiite pilgrims targeted

first_img“So I think you see potentially the Iraqi people wanting to take advantage of this opportunity and the enemy wanting to keep it going,” Pace told a Pentagon news conference. Still, police reported finding 10 bullet-ridden bodies throughout Baghdad on Wednesday, most showing signs of torture. Another two were found floating in the Tigris river south of the capital. Defense Secretary Robert Gates cited early indications that the Iraqi government is meeting the commitments it made to bolster security, although he cautioned that it was too early to reach any firm conclusions about the outcome. “We’re right at the very beginning,” he said at the Pentagon. “But I would say that based in terms of whether the Iraqis are meeting the commitments that they’ve made to us in the security arena, I think that our view would be so far, so good.” He was referring to the movement of additional Iraqi troops into the capital. Wednesday’s suicide attack took place near sunset at a popular cafe in Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, where Sunni extremists have been forcing Shiites to flee through a campaign of assassination and intimidation. A senior police officer said dozens of people were gathered around the cafe enjoying mild, sunny weather when the attacker struck, killing 30 people and wounding 25. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his personal safety. Iraqi security forces have been bracing for more trouble this weekend at the climax of Shiite religious rites marking the end of a 40-day mourning period for Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Hussein’s death in a 7th-century battle near Karbala cemented the schism between Sunnis and Shiites. Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims were streaming by bus, car and foot into Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, many of them marching behind banners affirming their reverence for Imam Hussein. On Tuesday, two suicide bombers exploded themselves among pilgrims lining up at a checkpoint in the southern city of Hillah, killing at least 120 people and wounding about 190. More than 30 other pilgrims have been killed in dozens of bombings and shootings. In Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi security forces set up a six-ring cordon around the two main Shiite shrines as the city swelled with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Local Gov. Aqeel al-Khazalie said 10,000 policeman were deployed in the city, with pilgrims undergoing multiple searches at checkpoints before they reach the two major shrines. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Just north of the capital, a powerful bomb killed three American soldiers trying to clear explosives from a major highway, the U.S. military said. One American soldier was wounded in the attack. American troops have stepped up efforts to clear and secure major highways around the capital as part of the Baghdad security crackdown, which began last month. But the operation, which will eventually see an additional 17,000 U.S. combat troops in the capital, has so far failed to intimidate Sunni insurgents, who have retaliated with attacks outside the city – including those against Shiite pilgrims. At least 13 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since Sunday, all of them in Sunni areas north and east of Baghdad. Nine Americans died Monday, the deadliest day for the U.S. military here in nearly a month. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that in recent days the number of sectarian murders was down slightly and the number of car bombings was up. BAGHDAD, Iraq – A suicide attacker blew himself up in a cafe northeast of the capital Wednesday, killing 30 people as a wave of violence left 90 Iraqis dead throughout the country. The bloodshed persisted as Iraqi security forces struggled to protect more than 1 million Shiite pilgrims streaming toward the holy city of Karbala for annual religious rituals that begin Friday. The pilgrims are facing a string of attacks along the way that have claimed at least 174 lives in two days – among 284 killed across Iraq since Tuesday. They included 22 people – 12 police commandos and 10 civilians – who died Wednesday in a car bombing at a checkpoint in southern Baghdad set up to protect pilgrims, the U.S. military said. An Iraqi TV cameraman working for a Shiite-owned station was among the civilian dead, his station said. last_img read more