Two pilgrims killed in Iraq blast


A roadside bomb has killed two Shiite pilgrims and wounded eight south of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.

Police and health officials say the blast targeted pilgrims walking to the holy Shiite city of Karbala to commemorate the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, a revered Shiite figure

The attack took place in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

Bombings targeting members of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority have claimed the lives of at least 80 people in the past two days.

This was the third day in a row in which bombers presumed to be Sunni insurgents have struck at members of the country's Shiite majority.

More than 80 people have been killed in a wave of violence which Iraqis fear will rekindle the large-scale sectarian bloodshed that brought the country to the edge of civil war several years ago.

A series of bombings targeting Shiites claimed the lives of at least 78 people on Thursday, marking the second large-scale attack by militants since US forces pulled out last month. Two more Shiite pilgrims were killed on Friday.

In the southern city of Basra, about 400 people staged a protest today to denounce a decision by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to shelter the country's top Sunni politician after an arrest warrant was issued against him.

Iraq's Shiite-led government called for vice president Tariq al-Hashemi's arrest on terrorism charges just as the last American troops were leaving last month.

The standoff over Mr Hashemi is at the heart of an ongoing political crisis pitting the leaders of the country's mostly ethnic and sectarian-based party blocs against each other.

The protesters demanded Mr Talabani hand over his deputy so that he can stand trial.

Demonstrators hoisted Iraqi flags and banners reading "The Iraqi people demand a trial for al-Hashemi", and "Talabani is behind the sectarian turmoil" while chanting "No to Talabani" and "No to terrorism".

Mr Hashemi is staying in a guesthouse owned by Mr Talabani in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north - effectively out of reach of state security forces.

Some analysts fear that the political crisis, combined with the withdrawal of US forces, will create an atmosphere in which radical armed groups can rebuild themselves.