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Shia pilgrims targeted in fatal Baghdad suicide bombing Open in fullscreen

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Shia pilgrims targeted in fatal Baghdad suicide bombing

Tens of thousands of pilgrims travel to Karbala on foot [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 December, 2015

See the album, Shia Muslims commemrate Arba’een
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At least nine people were killed and 21 injured as a suicide bomber targeted a religious commemoration known as Arbaeen, in Iraq's capital on Monday.

A suicide bomber targeted Shia Muslims taking part in an annual pilgrimage in Baghdad on Monday, killing nine people and wounding another 21, Iraqi security officials have said.

The attack hit a checkpoint along a route used by Shia pilgrims in the northern Baghdad neighbourhood of al-Shaab.

Four soldiers who were guarding the route were among the dead.

Thousands of Shia pilgrims are in Baghdad during the lead-up to the religious commemoration known as Arbaeen, when Shia faithful converge on the holy city of Karbala.

The annual commemoration is often marked by violence despite tight security measures to protect the pilgrims, many of whom travel to Karbala on foot.

Arbaeen marks the passing of 40 days after the anniversary of the seventh century martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and a central figure in Shia Islam.

Iraqi officials say they expect the number of pilgrims this year to top last year's record of more than 17 million.

Earlier on Monday, two roadside bombs in commercial districts of Baghdad killed five people and wounded 16, according to Iraqi security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorised to release the information.

No one claimed Monday's attacks, but the Islamic State group has repeatedly targeted the country's Shia majority, viewing them as apostates deserving of death.

The extremist group swept across Iraq in 2014, capturing a third of the country and declaring it part of a self-styled Islamic caliphate.

On Monday, Iraq's military told civilians to leave the IS-held city of Ramadi, 115 kilometres (70 miles) west of Baghdad, indicating that an operation could soon be underway to retake the city.

IS captured Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, in May.

The military statement, broadcast on Iraqi state TV, said families should leave the city from the south, without providing further details.

The US-led coalition carried out seven airstrikes near Ramadi on Saturday, with the Pentagon saying they targeted IS fighters, positions and weapons caches.

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