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Female suicide bomber kills 40 during pilgrimage in Iraq

An Iraqi woman cries at the site of a suicide bombing that killed 40 people near Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, on Friday. About 80 others were injured. A female suicide bomber struck a tent filled with women and children resting during a Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Associated Press

An Iraqi woman cries at the site of a suicide bombing that killed 40 people near Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, on Friday. About 80 others were injured. A female suicide bomber struck a tent filled with women and children resting during a Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

BAGHDAD — A female suicide bomber struck a tent filled with women and children resting during a pilgrimage south of Baghdad on Friday, killing 40 people and wounding about 80 in the deadliest of three consecutive days of attacks against Shiite worshipers.

The assault, which also appeared to be the deadliest in Iraq this year, demonstrates the determination of some extremists to reignite sectarian warfare.

It also underscores how fragile the security situation remains, even as the United States turns over more responsibility to the Iraqis.

Witnesses said many of the injured were hurt in a stampede as survivors — most of them poor Shiites exhausted after days of walking — scrambled away from the tent in terror. They left behind piles of clothing, small rugs and toddlers' strollers.

"It was a horrific scene, with dead and screaming injured people on the ground," said Sadiya Kadom, 40, a Baghdad resident who was near the tent when the blast occurred.

No group claimed responsibility, but suicide bombings against Shiite civilians are the signature attack of al-Qaida in Iraq, which U.S. commanders say has been severely weakened but not defeated.

"What kind of belief system do these people have? Are they monsters?" a man shouted as he held his dazed and wounded son, wrapped in a red and yellow blanket.

The bomber was successful in detonating her explosives despite a massive security operation by Iraqi authorities to protect the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims streaming into the Shiite holy city of Karbala for religious rituals that culminate Monday.

The vast numbers of pilgrims and the distances many of them must travel make it all but impossible to guarantee their safety from determined extremist groups willing to die.

The blast occurred at midday alongside a railroad track close to Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad and 10 miles north of Karbala. Separate tents for men and women offer pilgrims food, beverages and a place to rest along the routes to Karbala.

Attacks by women

A wave of suicide attacks by women has alarmed Iraqi and American commanders in the past two years as insurgents have adjusted tactics to avoid detection. Women generally are subject to less intrusive searches because of cultural mores, while their loose robes more easily hide explosives. Iraq's police and military have responded by trying to hire more women as security officers to search women at checkpoints.

Other attacks by women:

July 28, 2008: Female suicide bombers attack a Shiite pilgrimage in Baghdad and a Kurdish protest rally in northern Iraq, killing at least 57 people and wounding nearly 300.

May 1, 2008: A bomber imitating pregnancy detonates the first bomb in a double suicide attack that kills at least 36 people in a wedding procession in Balad Ruz. At least 65 are wounded.

March 17, 2008: A bomber attacks a group of Shiite worshipers near a mosque in Karbala, killing at least 49 people and wounding 73.

Feb. 1, 2008: Two women strapped with remote-controlled explosives attack pet markets in Baghdad. At least 100 people are killed; more than 100 are wounded.

Female suicide bomber kills 40 during pilgrimage in Iraq 02/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 13, 2009 9:41pm]

    

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