More Than 70 Die In Baghdad Shrine Attack

April 25, 2009|By Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed | Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed,Tribune Newspapers

BAGHDAD -Two bombers detonated suicide vests outside a gold-domed religious shrine Friday and killed at least 71 people, raising the toll in two days of attacks on Shiite Muslims in Iraq to 159 and reviving fears of a return to sectarian war.

The attacks at the Imam Musa Khadimiyah shrine in northeast Baghdad raise concerns that the Sunni insurgency is regrouping just as U.S. forces are preparing to withdraw from Iraq's cities and President Barack Obama seeks to shift resources away from Iraq toward Afghanistan.

Police said the two bombers struck minutes apart outside separate gates of the shrine, where one of the 12 holy imams of Shiite Islam is buried. It draws thousands of visitors daily from around the world and is guarded by police and army checkpoints.

Pilgrims and worshippers were streaming toward the shrine to attend Friday prayers when the first bomber struck in an alleyway leading to one of the gates. Witnesses described scenes of panic as people tripped over bodies and upended market stalls as they tried to escape down narrow alleys.

Moments later the second bomber detonated his vest amid a group of Iranian pilgrims walking to the shrine along a main shopping street. At least 25 of the victims there were Iranian, police said. Iranian pilgrims were also the target of one of two bombings on Thursday that killed 88 people.

Iran's influence in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the election of a Shiite government has been a source of discontent among many Iraqi Sunnis, not only those associated with the insurgency.

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