BAGHDAD (AP) — Back-to-back explosions tore through tents housing Shiite pilgrims in southern Iraq on Thursday, the deadliest in a wave of bombings that killed at least 43 people nationwide, officials said.
The attacks in Hillah began with a roadside bombing near tents set up for Shiites commemorating the 7th century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussein. That was quickly followed by a car bomb targeting emergency response teams.
The explosions, which occurred in a busy commercial area, killed at least 29 people and wounded as many as 90, a police officer said, making it the deadliest attack in the city this year.
Twisted and charred vehicles were left outside damaged stores as shopkeepers collected their strewn merchandise from the bloodstained pavement. Hillah is 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.
Ali Hussein, 44, was walking near his house when he heard the two thunderous explosions near the commercial area about 200 meters (yards) from his house.
"I rushed to the blast site and I saw burning cars and pieces of flesh everywhere," said Hussein, who owns a grocery store. "There were small blood pools all around the place," he added, blaming the security forces who "should do better in order to protect the innocent people."
Just hours earlier, a parked car exploded near the shrine of Imam Hussein in the Shiite city of Karbala, killing six people and wounding 20, another police officer said.
Karbala, 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of Baghdad, is one of the holiest cities in Shiite Islam and the place where Imam Hussein and his brother, Imam Abbas, are buried. Hundreds of thousands of Shiites flock to their golden-domed shrines every year.
Such religious ceremonies have often been targeted by Sunni insurgents seeking to foment sectarian violence and undermine the Shiite-led government.
A suicide bomber also drove his explosives-laden car into a police checkpoint in the mainly Sunni city of Fallujah, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital, killing three policemen and wounding 11 others, a police official in the city said.