Pilgrims die in series of bombings across Iraq

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A STRING of bomb attacks, ­mainly targeting Shiite Muslims, killed at least 24 people across Iraq ­yesterday.

The violence followed two weeks of relative calm and could fuel rising tension among Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups.

The worst incident was in the town of Dujal, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, when a pair of car bombs exploded near pilgrims walking to a shrine in nearby Samarra.

“We heard thunderous explosions, and everybody went outside and saw burning cars and several bodies on the ground. Market stalls on both sides of the road were on fire,” said eyewitness Naseer Hadi, who works in the vicinity.

The pilgrims were heading to the al-Askari shrine to commemorate the martyrdom of two prominent Shiite imams who are buried there.

A 2006 bombing at the same shrine sparked years of retaliatory bloodshed between Sunni and Shiite extremists. The violence left thousands of Iraqis dead and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

Yesterday’s attacks in Dujail came hours after a car bomb struck a bus carrying foreign pilgrims near the southern Shiite holy city of Karbala. Four people were killed and 12 were wounded in that attack, said officials.

In the town of Qassim, 78 miles south of Baghdad, a bomb placed in a parked car exploded near a bus stop, killing seven people and wounding 28. The casualties included Shiite pilgrims who were also heading to Karbala, said police.

And in northeastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb apparently targeting an army patrol struck a civilian car instead, killing two passengers and wounding two others, said police and hospital officials.