Militants targeted the homes of Iraq's security forces west of Baghdad on Wednesday, blowing them up and killing three family members despite heightened security around the capital for a Shiite religious occasion. Though violence has dropped across Iraq, security forces, religious processions and holy sites are still regularly targeted by insurgents trying to destabilize the country and re-ignite sectarian bloodshed as US troops head home.
Police officials said militants attacked the homes of two police officers, two members of an anti-al-Qaida Awakening Council and that of an ambulance driver in the dawn attacks in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib.
None of the targeted men were at home at the time of the attacks, but three of the men's family members were killed, police and hospital officials in Abu Ghraib said.
In a separate attack in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in southern Baghdad, police Maj. Abdul-Rahman Sobhi was killed when a bomb attached to his car detonated as he drove to work on Wednesday morning, police said.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The attacks occurred even as security forces were on high alert in Baghdad where Shiite pilgrims from all over Iraq converged on a mosque in the northern Kazimiyah neighborhood to mark the anniversary of the death of Moussa al-Kadhim, the seventh imam. The huge religious processions of Iraq's majority Shiite sect have often been targeted by Sunni insurgents. Sectarian bloodshed had the nation teetering on the brink of civil war from 2005 to 2007.
A vehicle ban was in place across Kazimiyah neighborhood and 200,000 members of security forces were deployed along the way to the shrine.
As pilgrims walked through the city, they were searched for weapons at checkpoints and advised to cross bridges in small groups to prevent stampedes.
In 2005, more than 900 people died in a stampede sparked by a rumor that a suicide bomber was among the more than 1 million people who had gathered at the Kazimiyah shrine to mark the date of the imam's death.
On Tuesday, nine Shiite Muslims taking part in the pilgrimage in Baghdad were killed and dozens were wounded in mortar attacks and roadside bomb explosions.