Some 38 people were killed and dozens injured Saturday in a suicide attack on Shiite pilgrims leaving a shrine north of Baghdad. The second of its kind in just a week, the bomber targeted pilgrims as they left the site by bus.
REUTERS - A suicide bomber blew himself up on Saturday near a crowd of Shi'ite pilgrims at a bus depot in the Iraqi city of Samarra, killing 38 people and wounding scores, police and officials said.
The attack was the second suicide bombing this week near Samarra, where Shi'ite pilgrims are commemorating the death of one of their 12 revered imams, and followed a series of recent attacks by insurgents as U.S. troops prepare to fully withdraw.
"It was a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest. An Iraqi soldier at the south entrance of Samarra tried to stop him but he immediately blew himself up near a bus terminal filled with pilgrims," Ahmed Abdul-Jabbar, the deputy governor of Salahuddin province, told Reuters.
Amir Hadi, the mayor of the nearby town of Balad, where some of the victims were taken, said the attack killed 38 people and wounded 74 others. Police in Samarra confirmed the toll.
A source in Samarra's military operations said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber wearing a vest laden with at least 10 kilograms of explosives.
Shi'ite pilgrims have been targeted frequently in recent years by a stubborn Sunni insurgency which is still capable of carrying out lethal attacks almost eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
U.S. troops are expected to withdraw by the end of the year.
On Thursday, eight people were killed and 30 wounded when a suicide car bomber attacked a group of Shi'ite pilgrims heading to Samarra.
Shi'ite pilgrims gathered in Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad, to mark the death of Hasan al-Askari, the 11th of the 12 imams. Samarra is the home of the al-Askari mosque and shrine.
Shi'ite religious events were banned under Saddam.
Security around the city had been tightened ahead of the religious event. No vehicles had been allowed to enter or leave Samarra since Friday, residents said.
Saturday's attack occurred by a bus terminal for pilgrims, who have a separate entrance into the city.
Residents trying to donate blood after the incident said they were unable to get to the hospital, which had been sealed off by Iraqi security forces.
Overall violence has decreased in Iraq since the peak of sectarian warfare in 2006-7, but bombings and attacks still occur daily.
Dozens of people died in attacks on Shi'ite pilgrims last month near the holy city of Kerbala. At least seven people were killed and 78 wounded by three car bombs in the northern city of Kirkuk on Wednesday.