BAGHDAD – A bomb hit a procession of Shiite pilgrims in Iraq's capital, killing at least two people Tuesday night, officials said. The blast came days after another attack killed seven on the annual pilgrimage honoring a revered imam.
Violence during the pilgrimage, which climaxes Saturday, has raised fears of further heightening tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims during a sectarian-fueled deadlock in Iraq's coalition government.
The bomb hit devotees marching in Baghdad's southern Saydiyah neighborhood toward a famed twin-domed shrine to commemorate the death of Imam Moussa ibn Jaafar al-Kadhim, said a police officer and a health worker. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Security had been tightened for the pilgrimage after a mortar attack Sunday killed seven other pilgrims and wounded 38.
Pilgrims have started to arrive in Baghdad for the commemorations marking the eighth century death of al-Kadhim, one of the 12 principal Shiite saints, who is said to be buried in a shrine in the northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah.
The al-Kadhim procession was struck by tragedy in 2005, when thousands of Shiite pilgrims panicked by rumors of a suicide bomber broke into a stampede on a bridge, leaving some 1,000 of them dead. Police later said no explosives were found on the bridge, and poor crowd control and the climate of fear in Iraq appeared largely to blame.
Officials say the latest attacks, like many of the bombings that still plague Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, are intended to stir up animosity between Iraq's Shiite and Sunni Muslims, the two largest religious groups.