Baghdad: A wave of apparently coordinated bombings and shootings rocked Iraq during a major Shiite religious commemoration on Wednesday, killing at least 72 people and wounding more than 250, many of them pilgrims.

The attacks, which came as pilgrims flocked to a shrine to mark the anniversary of the death of Imam Musa Kadhim, a revered imam in Shiite Islam, were the deadliest in Iraq since August 15, 2011 when 74 people were killed.

The targeting of Shiite pilgrims was a stark reminder of Sunni-Shiite violence which tore Iraq apart in 2006-2007 and was condemned by parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, who termed it an attempt "to provoke sectarian strife."

Baghdad was hit by 10 bomb attacks and two shootings that killed at least 28 people and wounded dozens more, according to an interior ministry official and a medic.

The deadliest attack in the capital saw a car bomb explode in the Karrada neighbourhood of central Baghdad where pilgrims were eating breakfast in tents.

Human remains were scattered across the street, while cars and shops in the area were damaged.

The attack, in which a medical official said 16 people died and 32 were wounded, appeared aimed at the Shiite pilgrims as they headed in their tens of thousands to Imam Kadhim shrine in the northern neighbourhood of Kadhimiyah.

Another car bomb on the outskirts of Kadhimiyah, which an interior ministry official and a medic said killed seven people, left a hole two metres (yards) deep in a street, damaged cars and destroyed a number of makeshift houses.

"I could not see for more than two metres because of the smoke and dust," said a resident, Abdul Zahra Abdul Saad, adding that the blast occurred at about 5:00 am (0630 IST).

"I took out three people: two children and an old woman. They were all dead."

Coordinated attacks took place across other centres, including in the central city of Hilla, where a police captain and doctor Ali al-Khafaji at the main hospital said two car bombs killed 20 people and wounded 51 others.

Ten people, meanwhile, were killed in a wave of attacks in and around Baquba, north of Baghdad, security and medical officials said.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, three car bombs killed two people and wounded at least 17 more, the interior ministry official and doctor Nabil Hamdi Mushnaq of Kirkuk hospital said.


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