Bombs Strike Shiite Holy City in Iraq


More than a dozen people were killed Sunday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala when four successive explosions struck outside a passport office.

Local officials said 15 people were killed and more than 80 wounded. The figures could rise as rescue workers sift through the wreckage and as the local hospital continues to receive the wounded.

The first explosion was a car bomb that went off Sunday morning, as the work week began, as people lined up outside a government office that issues identity cards. As emergency workers and the police responded, another car bomb and two improvised bombs detonated, according to Tariq al-Khaikani, a member of Karbala’s provincial council.

“The perpetrators attempt to target the most crowded places in order to kill as many as possible,” he said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the tactics were similar to those typically used by Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni extremist groups, who have tried to foment a sectarian civil war. Sunni insurgents have frequently attacked Shiite pilgrims visiting Karbala, a sacred city south of Baghdad that is home to the shrine of Imam Hussein.

Earlier this month, in one of the more brutal recent attacks, gunmen stopped a bus full of Shiite pilgrims from Karbala as it traveled through the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, and killed 22 men.

Mr. Khaikani blamed the persistent violence in Iraq on the lack of ministers of interior and defense, two positions that have essentially been overseen by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki since the formation of a new government late last year. At the time, Mr. Maliki promised to name new heads of those ministries soon, but he has not yet done so.




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