130 killed in Iraq suicide bombings

At least 130 people were killed across Iraq today in suicide bombings targeting Shiite pilgrims in the south and police recruits in central Iraq. A U.S. convoy was also hit.The first blast near a Shiite shrine in central Karbala, 80 kilometres south of Baghdad, killed at least 49 people and injured 52, said Karbala police Col. Razaq al-Taie.

The bomber detonated an explosives vest loaded with small steel balls. He also had several hand-grenades on him, and one was found unexploded at the scene of the blast, al-Taie said.In Ramadi, the death toll from a suicide bombing continues to climb. At least 56 people were killed and 60 injured in an attack on a line of police recruits.

The U.S. military said the blast occurred near the Ramadi Glass and Ceramics Works. The bomber blew himself up among a crowd of about 1,000 applicants on the fourth and final day of police recruitment. Also Thursday, a roadside bomb killed five U.S. soldiers Thursday after exploding near an American convoy. A statement from the U.S. military said the convoy had been patrolling the Baghdad area.

According to Iraqi police Capt. Rahim Slaho, the convoy had been going to the area to help with the aftermath of the Karbala shrine bombing. In other violence Thursday, three Iraqi soldiers were killed in a suicide car bombing in Baghdad, according to Lt. Col. Thamir al-Gharawi. Gunmen killed three others in separate incidents, police said.

This is one of the deadliest days in Iraq in the three-year insurgency, with close to 170 killed in the last two days. The suicide bombing in Karbala occurred about 30 metres from the Imam Hussein shrine, in a busy pedestrian area surrounded by shops.

Television pictures showed pools of blood in the street and chaos, with men ferrying wounded in push carts. The area is popular with pilgrims, who travel to the holy site on Thursday ahead of Friday prayers.

Karbala has been relatively calm since December 2004, when at least 60 people were killed in suicide bombings at the main bus station in Karbala and a funeral procession in the other Shiite holy city, Najaf.The deadliest civilian attack in Karbala came in March 2004, when suicide bombers, mortars and planted explosives killed at least 181 people in coordinated attacks near Muslim shrines.

Today's attacks in Karbala, home to two of the three holiest shrines in Iraq, raise fears of an escalation of sectarian tensions, reports CTV. I.L.

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