53 Dead in Attack on Iraqi Shi’ites

Posted January 14th, 2012 at 9:50 am (UTC-5)
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A suicide bombing in southern Iraq has killed at least 53 Shi'ite pilgrims. It is the latest in a series of attacks on Shi'ites in recent weeks.

Iraqi officials say the attack Saturday near the city of Basra wounded 137 people. The blast struck close to a police checkpoint as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims marched to a Shi'ite shrine in the city of Karbala.

The attack occurred near the end of Arbaeen, a period when Shi'ites commemorate the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shi'ite Islam's most revered figures.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the blast.

Tensions between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq are high, especially since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country last year.

Iraq's government, headed by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is dominated by Shi'ites. But it includes Sunnis and Kurds in a fragile power-sharing system that is rife with sectarian tensions.

More than 100 people have been killed in a spate of attacks on Shi'ites since the government issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi last month. He is charged with operating a death squad.

Hashemi has denied the charges. He fled to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to avoid detention.