Attacks across Iraq on Monday, many of which targeted Shiites, killed 17 people and wounded dozens, including 15 Afghans visiting the country for religious commemorations, officials said.
The violence included multiple bombings in and around Baghdad against Shiite worshippers walking to the shrine city of Karbala, 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of the capital, for Arbaeen rituals later this week.
In the deadliest attack, a car bomb in Shaab, a Shiite neighbourhood in east Baghdad, killed seven people and wounded 19, according to an interior ministry official and doctors at nearby hospitals in Sadr City and Palestine Street.
The blast struck a market in the area at around 7:00 pm (1600 GMT), the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A half-hour earlier, another car bomb killed four people and wounded at least 25 near the Husseiniyah Shiite mosque in Muasalat, southwest Baghdad, said officials from the ministries of interior and defence.
Just south of Baghdad in the town of Owairij, a roadside bomb on Monday morning targeting devotees walking to Karbala killed one pilgrim and wounded at least nine others, according to the officials.
And on the outskirts of the central city of Hilla, a car bomb wounded 15 Afghan pilgrims, three of them seriously, police and medics said.
A separate roadside bomb north of Hilla Monday evening wounded four pilgrims, police said.
The festival of Arbaeen later this month marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the killing of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam’s most revered figures, by the armies of the Caliph Yazid in 680 AD.
As part of the ceremonies, Shiite pilgrims walk to Karbala from across Iraq. Devotees also descend on the city from around the world.
Attacks on Shiites in the capital and southern Iraq on Thursday killed 70 people and wounded more than 100, the highest death toll since August, as a row between the Shiite-led government and the main Sunni-backed bloc stoked sectarian tensions.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, gunmen burst into the home of Fatma Tayyiq, a branch manager for the Commercial Bank of Iraq, and shot her and husband dead in the capital’s central Karrada district, an interior ministry official said.
It was not immediately clear why they were targeted.
And in the northern ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, an insurgent opened fire on a group of security officers from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, known as the asayesh, killing two officers and wounding two others, a police officer and a doctor at the city’s hospital said.
The gunman was killed in return fire.
In the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded three others, army Lieutenant Colonel Yassin Mohammed said.
Also on Monday, Al-Qaeda’s front group the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) claimed a November 28 suicide car bomb attack against parliament which it said targeted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and MPs.
An Iraqi lawmaker was wounded and two other people killed in the blast.
Baghdad security spokesman Qassim Atta said last month that the attacker drove a black SUV containing 20 kilogrammes of locally-made explosives.
In a statement published on the Honein jihadist forum, ISI also said it was behind a December 26 suicide car bombing of the interior ministry in Baghdad, as well as dozens of other attacks.