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More Iraqi Shi'ite Pilgrims Die in Attacks


The number of Shi'ite pilgrims killed in Iraq has climbed to 63 as attacks on those traveling to a major Shi'ite gathering have continued. Daniel Schearf has this report from the Northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Iraqi police say four Shi'ite pilgrims were killed and 15 wounded in a bomb blast Monday in Southern Baghdad. The death toll from a Sunday suicide bombing aimed at Shi'ite pilgrims has risen to 59 in one of the deadliest attacks this year.

At least 68 others were wounded when the bomber detonated in a crowd of pilgrims traveling through Iskandariyah a town south of Baghdad. At least three other pilgrims were killed in Baghdad Sunday and almost 40 wounded in a separate attack.

Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims are making their way to the Southern Iraqi city of Karbala for an important Shi'ite gathering on Wednesday called Arbaeen.

Many pilgrims are traveling on foot as a demonstration of piety making them easy targets for Sunni militants who consider Shiites heretics.

Rear Admiral Gregory Smith is a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq. Despite the loss of life he says, Iraqi security has done well in handling the massive movement of people.

"They've got extensive command and control and forces spread out through the region as pilgrims prepare their way towards Karbala," said Admiral smith. "And they have made a great deal of effort to ensure the safety of the Shi'ite pilgrimage is foremost in their minds and I think they are doing a great job so far."

The Shi'ite ceremony marks the end of ritual mourning of the death of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson some 13 centuries ago.

Also Monday, a suicide bomber in a wheelchare killed three policeman north of Baghdad. Admiral Smith says it was not clear if the bomber was handicapped or just using the wheelchair to get past police.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities have blamed al Qaida in Iraq for most suicide attacks in the country. The militant islamic group has used women and children to carry out the attacks. The U.S. military said another suicide bomber blew up out side of a mosque in Falluja Monday killing two policeman and two civilians.

The statement said the bomber was believed to be a teenager.

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