61 killed in Iraq attacks

Baghdad, May 20 (IANS) A series of car bombings and shootings, mainly targeting Shia Muslim areas across Iraq, Monday killed at least 61 people, including Iranian pilgrims, and wounded around 200 others, officials said.

The worst violence occurred in Baghdad, when eight car bombs and a roadside bomb ripped through bus stops, marketplaces and other crowded areas in Shia neighbourhoods in the capital city, killing 12 people and wounding 109, Xinhua reported.

In Iraq’s oil-rich city of Basra, 550 km south of Baghdad, 11 people were killed and 35 wounded when two car bombs went off almost simultaneously.

A roadside bomb went off near fighters of a government-backed paramilitary group — the Awakening Council — in Samarra, 110 km north of Baghdad, killing two fighters and wounding 18, police told Xinhua.

The fighters of the Sunni group had gathered near an army base to collect their salaries.

In another incident, unidentified gunmen opened fire on another group of Sunni fighters when they were also collecting their salaries in Yathrib, 85 km north of Baghdad. One Sunni fighter was killed and two were wounded.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car at a checkpoint manned by members of another Sunni paramilitary group in Baiji, 220 km north of Baghdad, killing two fighters and wounding five others.

A car bomb parked on a main road near Balad, some 80 km north of Baghdad, went off near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, killing eight pilgrims and wounding 19 others, including five women, police said.

The Iranian pilgrims were on their way back to Baghdad after a visit to Shia shrines in Samarra.

In the eastern province of Diyala, three people were killed and three wounded in two bomb attacks near the provincial capital of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad.

In western Iraq, 12 kidnapped policemen were killed and four wounded during an overnight raid by Iraqi forces on an insurgents’ safe house in a desert area between Baghdad and Jordan in Anbar province.

The province was the scene of another deadly attack against police late Sunday, when unidentified gunmen attacked a police station in Rawa, 260 km northwest of Baghdad, and killed 10 policemen before they fled the scene.

Anbar province is the heartland of Iraqi Sunni Muslims. Its capital Ramadi has been one of the main areas of the Sunni protests against the Shia-led government in Baghdad since December.

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