BAGHDAD — A double car bombing and a shooting killed 34 Shi’ite Muslims on pilgrimage in Iraq on Monday, the deadliest attacks in a wave of violence across the country that left at least 65 people dead. It was the bloodiest day of violence in Iraq in nearly two months.
Police officials said the worst attack took place Monday night in the southern Baghdad suburb of al-Rasheed, when two car bombs struck a group of Shi’ites walking to the holy city of Karbala, Twenty-three pilgrims were killed and 55 wounded.
Hundreds of thousands of Shi’ite pilgrims are making their way to the city to commemorate Arbaeen, the end of 40 days of mourning after the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. Millions of Iraqi and people from other Muslim countries visit for the religious event, which has been marred by violence in the past.
Earlier in the day, gunmen opened fire on a bus in Mosul that was carrying Shi’ites also traveling to Karbala, killing 11 and wounding eight. Mosul is about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.
Police said the worshipers in the Mosul attack were pulled out of their bus and shot to death on the road.
Sunni Muslim insurgents in Iraq frequently attack Shi’ites, whom they consider infidels. Usually, Shi’ite marches to holy cities are poorly protected by Iraqi security forces.
In other violence Monday, a group of suicide bombers launched a brazen attack on a police station in the town of Beiji, a former insurgent stronghold 155 miles north of Baghdad, where a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into the main gate of the town police station.
That explosion paved the way for three other suicide bombers to storm inside and blow themselves up in the building, a police officer said. Eight police officers were killed while five were wounded in the attack, he said.
Later in the morning, several bombings hit different parts of Baghdad and northern Iraq, police said.
In southeastern Baghdad, a parked car bomb ripped through a parking lot, killing six civilians and wounding 12.
Another parked car bomb went off in the central Salhia neighborhood near the heavily fortified green zone where key government offices and foreign embassies are located. That attack killed five civilians and wounded 14.
Four civilians were killed and 11 were wounded when a parked car bomb exploded at an outdoor market in Baghdad’s central Sadriyah neighborhood. A bomb went off near a bus station in the nearby al-Nahda area, killing three people and wounding seven. Another bomb in the eastern suburb of Hussainiyah killed one civilian and wounded seven.
Two other civilians were killed and seven wounded in a car bomb blast in the southeastern suburb of Jisr Diyala.
In the northern city of Tikrit, some 80 miles north of Baghdad, three suicide bombers set off their explosives belts in a bid to break into the building of the city council. Two civilians were killed in that attack and seven were wounded.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but insurgent groups, mainly Al Qaeda and other Sunni militants, frequently target civilians in cafes and public areas, Shi’ites, as well as members of the Iraqi security forces, in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Shi’ite-led government and stir up Iraq’s already simmering sectarian tensions.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
At least 288 people have died in attacks across the country this month, according to an Associated Press count. Monday was the deadliest day of attacks since Oct. 27, when 71 people were killed.
Monday’s bombings were the latest episode in a wave of violence that has roiled Iraq since a security crackdown in April on a protest camp in a northern Sunni town.
In a separate development, a leading Shi’ite Muslim cleric widely followed by Iraqi militants issued the first public religious edict permitting Shi’ites to fight in Syria’s civil war alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces.
The fatwa by Iran-based Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, one of the mentors of radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, comes as thousands of Shi’ite fighters mostly from Iraq and Lebanon play a major role in the battles.
The call will probably increase the sectarian tones of the Syrian war, which pits overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim rebels against members of Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. The situation has worsened with the influx of thousands of Shi’ite and Sunni foreign fighters.