Bombs kill 2 Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad

January 6, 2012 - 4:56 AM

BAGHDAD (AP) — Roadside bombs killed two Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad on Friday, the day after the country's deadliest sectarian violence in more than a year left scores dead, officials said.

The new wave of attacks, which bore the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents, raised fears of a renewal of the widespread sectarian bloodshed that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war just a few years ago.

At least three roadside bombs exploded Friday morning in different parts of the capital, wounding 17 people in addition to the two killed, police and hospital officials said.

They struck Shiite pilgrims making their way toward the sacred city of Karbala for a holy day that draws hundreds of thousands of believers from across Iraq each year.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to brief the media.

A series of bombings targeting members of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority claimed the lives of at least 78 people on Thursday, marking the second large-scale attack by militants since U.S. forces pulled out last month.

The attacks occurred in the run-up to Arbaeen, a holy day that marks the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, a revered Shiite figure. During this time, Shiite pilgrims — many on foot — make their way across Iraq to Karbala, south of Baghdad.

Coordinated attacks aimed at Shiites are a tactic frequently used by Sunni insurgents.

The last U.S. combat troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, ending a nearly nine-year war. Many Iraqis worry that a resurgence of Sunni and Shiite militancy could follow the Americans' withdrawal. In 2006, a Sunni attack on a Shiite shrine triggered a wave of sectarian violence that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

The violence in Iraq comes as the country's main factions are mired in a crisis pitting politicians from the Shiite majority now in power against the Sunni minority, which dominated government under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

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Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report.