53 Dead in Attack on Iraqi Shi’ites
A suicide-bomber handing out food and pastries blew himself up near a security checkpoint outside the mainly Shi’ite Iraqi port city of Basra, killing at least 53 people and wounding at least 137 others.
The attack targeted Shi’ite worshipers who had turned out for Arbaeen, a major religious celebration which commemorates the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shi’ite Islam’s most revered figures.
Firefighters hosed down the pavement along the road where the bombing took place, as workers removed pieces of food, shoes and clothing from the scene of the explosion. Dozens were killed and wounded in the blast, but government TV showed only the cleanup.
Witnesses initially reported that a policeman blew himself up near a checkpoint, but security officials insisted that the culprit was a food vendor. Ali Maliki, who heads the Basra security commission stressed that stringent safety measures are causing the terrorists to change tactics.
Maliki said that terrorists were unable to detonate car bombs or roadside bombs, so they found a new trick, using someone carrying a container of food and pastries who began handing them out to (pilgrims), causing people to gather around him.
General Osman al-Ghanemi, who heads the Central Euphrates military district told al-Hurra TV that 17.5 million Shi’ite pilgrims visited the holy sites at Karbala and Najaf for the pilgrimage and that a government security plan curbed the usual threat of car bombs and roadside blasts: