Back-to-back suicide bombings killed 60 people Friday outside the most important Shiite shrine in Baghdad, a day after the country was rocked by its most deadly violence in more than a year.
The bombings Friday and Thursday — in which nearly 80 people were killed — are the latest in a series of high-profile attacks blamed on Sunni insurgents. A new review of available evidence compiled by The Associated Press also suggested that more than 110,600 Iraqis have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The bombers Friday detonated explosive belts within minutes of each other near separate gates of the tomb of prominent Shiite saint Imam Mousa al-Kazim, located in the northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah, according to a police official. Another police official said the bombers struck shortly before the start of Friday prayers as worshippers streamed in to the mosque — an important site for Shiite pilgrims.
Among the dead were 25 Iranian pilgrims, police and a hospital official said. Both said at least 125 people, including 80 Iranian pilgrims, also were injured in the blast.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The attacks coincide with growing fears of a resurgence in violence as U.S. troops prepare to pull out of Iraqi cities in June, ahead of a full U.S. withdrawal by the end of 2011, and doubts over the effectiveness of Iraqi police and soldiers.
A national election at the end of the year has also heightened expectations of violence as political parties and armed groups jostle for dominance of the oil-producing nation.
While the violence unleashed in Iraq by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion has fallen dramatically over the past year, insurgent groups such as al-Qaida continue to carry out frequent attacks.
Analysts say the sectarian divide remains between Shiites and Sunnis that led to tens of thousands being slaughtered, while Kurd-Arab tensions over disputed lands in the north could also provoke renewed conflict.
The shrine has been a favored target of insurgents, most recently in early April when the a bomb left in a plastic bag near the shrine killed seven people and wounded 23.
In January, a man dressed as a woman blew himself up near the shrine, killing more than three dozen people and wounding more than 70.
Imam Mousa al-Kazim is an eighth century saint, and one of 12 Shiite saints. Hundreds of thousands of Shiites march to the shrine in Kazimiyah every year to commemorate his death in A.D. 799. Shiites believe al-Kazim is buried in the Baghdad golden-domed shrine.
Meanwhile, funerals began Friday for those killed in the suicide bombings a day earlier in Baghdad and in Diyala province.
Coffins were loaded on trucks near the Baghdad offices of the Iraqi Red Crescent, whose volunteers were distributing food parcels in central Baghdad when a suicide bomber killed 31 and wounded at least 50 others.
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