Car bombings kill 10 at Iraqi holy sites

Two car bombs targeting Iranian pilgrims in Iraq’s holy Shi’ite cities of Kerbala and Najaf killed at least 10 people on Monday, as the country’s leaders met to try break an eight-month deadlock over a new government.

Seven people were killed and 34 others wounded by a blast at one of the entrances to Kerbala, site of two of the holiest shrines in Shi’ite Islam, said Mohammed al-Moussawi, head of the Kerbala provincial council.

Four of the dead were Iranians, he said. “It was a car bomb. There were Iranian pilgrims in the area. They were targeted,” Moussawi said.

In Najaf, another car bomb killed three people and wounded 10 others when it exploded near buses transporting Iranian pilgrims to the revered Imam Ali shrine, a hospital official said. A police source put the toll at five dead and 16 wounded, adding that most of the casualties were Iranian.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranian religious tourists have visited Shi’ite holy sites in neighbouring Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

Saddam crushed insurrections by Iraq’s Shi’ite majority, banned Shi’ite religious festivals and fought an eight-year war with Shi’ite power Iran.
The pilgrims are often targeted by Sunni Islamist groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq, which view Shi’ite Muslims as apostates.

Breaking the deadlock

Iraq’s political factions met in the capital of the Kurdish region on Monday to try to break the deadlock over the formation of a new government which has left the country in limbo since an inconclusive election in March. Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite, is close to securing a second term but is still trying to win over leaders of a Sunni-backed cross-sectarian alliance.

Tension has risen during the impasse as Maliki and the head of the Sunni-backed bloc, former premier Iyad Allawi, jostle for power while insurgents launch a series of often devastating attacks.

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