At least 32 killed in Iraq holy day violence

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At least 32 people were killed in Iraq today in violence against Shiite pilgrims marking the Ashoura holy day.

A bomb left in a rubbish bin struck Shiites during ceremonies marking the Ashoura religious festival today in a Kurdish city near the Iranian border, killing at least 13 people and wounding 39.

About an hour later, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the entrance of a Shiite mosque in a predominantly Shiite city to the south, also near the Iranian border. At least 12 people were killed and 40 wounded in that attack, police said.

The first explosion hit at about 11.30am local as scores of Shiites were gathered in central Khanaqin performing rituals on the holiest day on the Shiite Islamic calendar, a commemoration of the 7th-century death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. The major religious festival culminates today.

Police Maj. Idriss Mohammed said at least 13 people were killed and 39 were wounded, adding that most of the victims were Shiite Kurds, who comprise the majority in the city. Most Kurds are Sunni but a minority are Shiite.

The suicide bomber who struck Mandali, which also is near the Iranian border, 60 miles north-east of Baghdad, detonated his explosives belt as he was in the midst of about 150 Shiites entering the Ali al-Akbar mosque at about 12.20pm, police said.

On November 18, 2005, suicide bombers struck two major mosques in Khanaqin, 90 miles north-east of Baghdad close to the Iranian border, killing at least 74 people and damaging the shrines.

At least seven people were killed and another seven wounded when gunmen ambushed a Baghdad bus carrying Shiite pilgrims.

Armed men drove by the bus in two cars and opened fire on the occupants, then sped away, police said.

The attack occurred about 10.30am local time in the western district of Hay al-Amil, a religiously mixed area.

Police said the pilgrims were heading north to Kazimiyah. At least seven people were killed and seven others wounded, police said.