A suicide car bomber struck a police checkpoint near a market on Wednesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, killing at least eight people and wounding 43, police and hospital officials said.
The explosion occurred about 10:30 am as the area in central Najaf, 160 kilometres south of Baghdad, was filled with shoppers.
Najaf is a major pilgrim destination for Shiites as it is home to the iconic Imam Ali shrine near the city's huge cemetery — used by Shiites from throughout the country who come to the city to bury their dead.
It also is the site of the headquarters of spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia engaged in heavy fighting with the US forces in the area in 2004.
The area is tightly controlled by police and Shiite guards, although Najaf and its twin city of Kufa have been struck by past bombings, including a suicide attack on August 10 near the Imam Ali mosque that killed at least 35 people and wounded more than 100.