Baghdad: A sandstorm downed an Iraqi
military helicopter on Wednesday, killing its five-man crew, while
midmorning Baghdad bombings claimed the lives of six people,
Defense Ministry spokesman Maj Gen Mohammed
al-Askari said the helicopter was flying to provide air
protection to Shiite pilgrims traveling by road to the holy
city of Karbala, when it crashed in the sandstorm early in the
The crash is under investigation, and no other
details were immediately available, al-Askari said.
Thousands of pilgrims are headed to Karbala,
located 80 kilometers south of Baghdad, for an important
religious holiday marking the birth of a Shiite saint known as
the "Hidden Imam" who disappeared in the ninth century.
Such mass displays of devotion by Shiites have
often been targeted by Sunni extremists. Just a day earlier,
six people were killed and dozens more wounded when a female
suicide bomber blew herself up near a Karbala security
Meanwhile, two midmorning bombings in Baghdad
killed six people and injured 15 others in the eastern Shiite
slum of Sadr City, police and health officials said.
The bombs, which went off close to each other about
9:15 a m, were planted near a state-run bank where retirees
were waiting to get their pensions, the officials said.
The dead included three men, two women and one
Iraqi security official, officials said.
The three officials -- two policemen and a doctor
-- spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not
authorised to talk to the media.
There has been a decline of violence across Iraq
over the last two years, but low-level attacks do continue,
especially in Baghdad, Iraq`s capital.