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Woman suicide bomber kills 35

A woman suicide bomber killed 35 people, including women and children, and wounded 65 others on a religious march near the Kadhimiyah shrine in northern Baghdad today, a government official said.

world Updated: Jan 04, 2009 16:51 IST

A woman suicide bomber killed 35 people, including women and children, and wounded 65 others on a religious march near the Kadhimiyah shrine in northern Baghdad on Sunday, a government official said.

"A woman wearing an explosive belt blew herself up near one of the gates of the shrine," Major General Qassim Atta told AFP.

"According to our first preliminary report 35 were killed and 65 injured. Most of them were Iranian pilgrims and women and children," said Atta, who is Iraqi spokesman for security operations in Baghdad.

He described the force of the blast as "very big."

An interior ministry official put the death toll at 38. The US military said it was aware of the bombing but was awaiting a casualty report.

The attack was the deadliest in Iraq since December 11 when at least 55 people were killed and 95 wounded in a suicide bombing at a restaurant outside the northern city of Kirkuk.

Sunday's attack came just two days after a male suicide bomber killed at least 23 people and wounded 72 at a tribal meeting just south of Baghdad

Suicide bombings in particular are a hallmark of insurgents linked to the Al-Qaeda network.

The latest bombing is likely to raise concerns about the ability of Iraqi forces to maintain security in the capital after the United States handed back part of the security brief to Iraq forces on January 1, as mandated by United Nations.

Attacks of all types have been sharply down across Iraq in recent months according to US commanders, who recognise however that insurgents appear able still to strike throughout the country and that with provincial elections scheduled for January 31, an increase in violence is likely.

In December, a total of 316 Iraqis were killed in political violence across Iraq, the lowest monthly death toll in nearly three years, according to official figures released on Thursday.

In all, 6,772 Iraqis were killed in Iraq last year, down from 17,430 in 2007.

A defence ministry official said Sunday's attack came at about 11am (0800 GMT) as pilgrims, many of them Iranians, took part in the procession related to the Ashura ceremonies that climax on January 7.

The ceremonies mourn the killing of Imam Hussein by armies of the Sunni caliph Yazid in the year 680 and Shiite Muslim pilgrims from around the Middle East throng to Iraq to visit the nations's holy sites.

The commemoration is usually characterised by processions of wailing, crying men beating their chests and engaged in devotional self-flagellation.