Iraq hit by worst day of violence since withdrawal of US troops

Sunni insurgents blamed after a wave of attacks on Shia shrines leaves 70 dead across the country

More than 70 people were killed in Iraq yesterday when bombers attacked Shia pilgrims in Baghdad and across the country in the worst day of violence since the last US troops left in December.

At least 30 of the victims were killed when four bombs exploded as pilgrims marched across Baghdad to mark the anniversary of the death of Shia Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of Prophet Mohammed.

The bombings, blamed on Sunni insurgents, followed a recent spate of attacks targeting members of the majority Shia population. They came amid a continuing political crisis in which the Shia Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is facing an effort by Sunnis, Kurds and rivals from his own sect to engineer a no-confidence vote in protest at what they say is his failure to distribute government jobs more equitably among the parties.

While one car bomb was detonated outside a Shia mosque in the Iraqi capital, another explosion hit groups of pilgrims as they rested at refreshment tents in the central Karrada district, along the route towards a shrine.

Policeman Wathiq Muhana, told Reuters: "A group of pilgrims were walking and passed by a tent offering food and drinks when suddenly a car exploded near them. People were running away covered with blood and bodies were scattered on the ground."

Meanwhile, 22 people were killed in the predominantly Shia city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, where police said two car bombs – one of them detonated by a suicide bomber – exploded outside restaurants frequented by local security forces.

Maitham Sahib, the owner of a nearby restaurant, said: "When a minibus packed with policemen stopped near the restaurants, a car exploded near the bus. It's heart breaking. It is just sirens, and screams of wounded people."

In all, more than 21 bombs exploded in Baghdad and southern cities including Kerbala, Balad and Haswa, all mainly Shia, and targeted in the past by Sunni insurgents. One person was also killed when two bombs struck the offices of a Kurdish party in the ethnically mixed oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, to which leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan also lay claim.

But the chances of Sunni insurgents reigniting the bloody sectarian conflict that raged in 2006 and 2007 are debatable, given that with power firmly in the hands of the Shia majority, there is less incentive for bloody tit-for-tat retaliation.

Although there was a steep rise in violence after the US pull-out – 73 were killed in bombings on 5 January – Iraqi government statistics suggest the rate of violent incidents is falling.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst / Helpdesk Support Analyst

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is the UK's leading ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'