A bomb exploded near a group of Shiite pilgrims flocking to the shrine city of Kerbala in central Iraq on Wednesday, killing at least 23 people and injuring dozens more.
REUTERS - A bomb planted on a cart pulled by a motorcycle killed at least 23 people and wounded 110 others as Shi'ite pilgrims poured into the Iraqi holy city of Kerbala on Wednesday for a major religious rite, health officials said.
Shi'ite gatherings are frequent targets for Sunni Islamist militants such as al Qaeda, trying to stoke sectarian carnage, while recent months have also seen major coordinated attacks by suicide bombers on Baghdad ahead of a March election.
The toll from Wednesday's bombing could rise, police said.
Police said three people were killed and 21 wounded late on Tuesday when a bomb attached to a military vehicle exploded in Kerbala, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad.
On Monday, a bomb targeting Shi'ite pilgrims killed more than 40 people on the outskirts of Baghdad as they set off on the annual trek to Kerbala for the Arbain festival.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has improved security across Iraq a central theme of his campaign for the March 7 parliamentary election and he has called on the security forces to ensure pilgrims heading to Kerbala are protected.
Millions of Shi'ites from Iraq, Iran, Bahrain and other nations have defied the threat of bombings since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Sunni-led government of Saddam Hussein to visit Iraq's Shi'ite holy sites.
Arbain marks 40 days of mourning for Hussein, the Prophet Mohammad's grandson, who died in a seventh century battle at Kerbala. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, beating their heads and chests in ritual mourning, visit the city for the rite.