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Blasts targeting Iranian pilgrims kill 14, injure more than 80

From Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
  • One explosion hits a bus carrying pilgrims heading to a shrine
  • Another series of bombs blows up at a rest house popular with pilgrims
  • Thousands of Shia Muslim pilgrims are visiting shrines across Iraq
  • Iraq

Baghdad (CNN) -- A series of bomb attacks shook Iraq's capital of Baghdad on Saturday morning, killing 14 people and wounding more than 80 others, Baghdad police said.

The attacks, which police say appear to have been coordinated, happened as Iraqi security forces increased their presence to protect Shiites traveling from Iran during Muharram, one of the holiest months in the Muslim calendar.

In one incident on Saturday, a car bomb exploded in the al-Shulaa Shiite neighborhood near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, killing two people and wounding 28 others, police said. The bus was heading to the Kadhimiya Shiite neighborhood for pilgrims to visit Imam Musa al-Kadhim shrine.

A few minutes later, another car bomb and two roadside bombs exploded, targeting a rest house popular with Iranian pilgrims in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of northwestern Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 18 others, police said.

Separately, a car bomb exploded in an outdoor market in the Bayaa Shiite neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad. At least six people were killed and 42 others wounded.

Iran's semi-official FARS news agency reported Saturday that no Iranian pilgrims were killed in the attack.

"No Iranian pilgrim has been killed in the explosion in Baghdad today," Iranian Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization's Director-General for International and Pilgrimage Affairs Hojjatoleslam Mehdi Shahsavari said, according to FARS.

"11 Iranian pilgrims who are in Iraq on personal trip plans were on a bus in the al-Shula neighborhood at the entrance to the Kadhamiya in western Baghdad when this incident happened," he said, FARS reported. "These 11 Iranian pilgrims, including 5 men and 6 women, were slightly wounded in the explosion."

Thousands of Shiite pilgrims, many of them Iranian, are expected to visit shrines across the country, especially in Najaf, Karbala, Samarra and Kadhimiya ahead of Muharram in coming days.

The first ten days of Muharram are the days Shiites commemorate martyrdom of Hussein, the Prophet Mohammed's grandson and the Shiites' third Imam.