Bombings Target Iraq Police, Pilgrims, Killing 19

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - At least 19 people were killed in bomb attacks targeting Iraqi police and pilgrims on Wednesday, police and medical sources said, just before the end of a Shiite Muslim religious festival.

Bombings Target Iraq Police, Pilgrims, Killing 19

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, which coincided with the holy ritual of Ashura, when Shiites commemorate Imam Hossein who died more than 1,000 years ago. The 10-day ritual ends on Thursday.

Shiites are considered apostates by hardline insurgents who have been regaining momentum in Iraq this year.

Security personnel are also a prime target for militants linked with al Qaeda, which seeks to destabilize Iraq's Shiite-led government and foment intercommunal conflict.

In the deadliest attack, 10 people were killed when a suicide bomber drove a truck packed with explosives into a police checkpoint in the town of al-Alam near Tikrit, police said.

Insurgents have a foothold in Tikrit, Reuters reported.

"A truck driver reached the checkpoint and when asked by police to pull over, a powerful blast happened, killing two policemen and eight innocent passers-by," said police colonel Khalid Mahdi.

Near the city of Baquba, three roadside bombs exploded near a group of Shiite pilgrims commemorating Ashura, killing nine, medics and police sources said.

Violence began to ease after al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate was forced underground in 2007, but it is rising again, with more than 7,500 civilians killed so far this year, according to monitoring group Iraq Body Count.

Iraqi officials blame the bloodshed on al Qaeda and the civil war in neighboring Syria, which has drawn hardline militants from across the region and beyond into battle against President Bashar al-Assad.

Al Qaeda's Iraqi wing earlier this year joined forces with its Syrian counterpart to form the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on both sides of the border.

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