Woman bomber kills 54 Shia pilgrims

A female suicide bomber killed at least 54 people yesterday after detonating an explosives belt among a group of Shia pilgrims in the Iraqi capital.

The bombing was the first major strike this year against pilgrims making their way to the southern city of Karbala to mark a Shia holy day. It raises fears of an escalation of attacks as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims mark the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, a revered Shia figure.

The bomber hid the explosives underneath an abaya – a black cloak worn from head to toe by women – as she joined the group in Baghdad's Shia-dominated suburb of Shaab. The 54 dead included 18 women and 12 children, while 117 people were wounded.

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