Baghdad car bomb hits mourners, 53 dead in attacks

Baghdad, Jan 27 (AFP) A massive car bomb rippedthrough a funeral ceremony in a Shiite district of Baghdadtoday, killing 48 people in Iraq''s bloodiest day in more thantwo months.

The blast was the deadliest in a series of bombingstoday that claimed 53 lives across the city, and is the latestin a spate of violence in the past 10 days that has killedmore people than in November or December.

The surge in attacks, mostly targeting majority ShiiteMuslims, comes little more than a month after Prime MinisterNuri al-Maliki formed a national unity government, ending ninemonths of deadlock following elections in March.

An interior ministry official said the car bomb, whichexploded outside a tent where mourners were gathered for afuneral ceremony, killed 48 people and wounded 121.

The blast, which took place at around 1:30 pm (localtime) in the Shuala neighbourhood, completely burned the tentand left pools of blood and scattered pieces of clothing andshoes, an AFP journalist said.

Several cars were also completely destroyed, while thewindows of nearby homes were shattered. Security forces closedoff many of the main roads leading to the blast site andimposed a vehicle curfew.

Policemen and soldiers who rushed to the scene wereconfronted by an angry mob that assaulted them with volleys ofstones, the official said, adding that "armed men" had firedon security forces, beating them away from the blast site.

"They withdrew until a regiment from the army came andstarted to fire into the air to disperse the crowds," he said,adding that a vehicle curfew had been put into place.

Maliki ordered the arrest of the area''s securitychief, army Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed al-Obeidi, in theimmediate aftermath of the attack.

In other blasts around the capital, five people werekilled and 21 wounded by roadside bomb attacks and a bombplaced inside a minibus.

The overall death toll of 53 was the highest forBaghdad since November 2, when 11 car bombs rocked thecapital, killing 63 and wounding nearly 300 in predominantlyShiite neighbourhoods.

The funeral attack was the latest targeting Shiitessince a spate of car bombings last week killed 57 peopleoutside the shrine city of Karbala.

Those bombings came ahead of a Shiite mourning ritualwhen hundreds of thousands of pilgrims poured into the city tomark 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating themartyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad.

On January 20 on the outskirts of Karbala, three carbombs exploded among crowds of worshippers around 20 minutesapart, killing 45 people and wounding 150 others.

Another triple car bombing four days later killed 12and wounded dozens. (AFP)

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