Two car bombs targeting Shiite pilgrims during a religious festival in the holy city of Karbala killed 25 people on Monday, Iraqi police and hospital officials said. Sunni extremists are suspected.
Militants detonated two parked cars filled with explosives about 2 miles apart as crowds of pilgrims passed by. Police and medical officials in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, said 68 people were injured.
The pilgrims were on their way to Karbala to take part in an important religious holiday, known as Shabaniyah, that attracts devout Shiites from around the country.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the method is the hallmark of Sunni extremists. While violence has dropped dramatically in the past years in Iraq, suspected Sunni insurgents regularly target Shiite religious ceremonies and holy places in an attempt to re-ignite sectarian tensions that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2005 and 2007.
The Shabaniyah festival marks the birth of Imam Mohammed al-Mahdi — known as the "Hidden Imam" — a Shiite saint who disappeared in the ninth century, and is held in the middle of the month preceding the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Devout Shiites believe the Hidden Imam will return someday to usher in peace and harmony in the world, and hundreds of thousands flock to Karbala for the celebration.
In Baghdad, a suicide bomber driving a minibus blew himself up in front of the office of a popular Arabic news station, killing six people.