Baghdad: A car bomb blast targeting Shiites in Baghdad ahead of the major Ashura religious commemorations killed at least 13 people on Sunday, security and medical officials said.
The blast struck near a tent from which they were distributing tea and water in the Al-Ilam area in southwest Baghdad, also wounding at least 29 people, the sources said.
Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims will flock to the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala for Ashura, which marks the death of Imam Hussein, one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam.
Pilgrims have been targeted during Ashura before, but this year`s commemorations, which peak on Tuesday, face even greater danger, with the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in control of large areas of the country.
IS, like other Sunni extremist groups, considers Shiites to be heretics and frequently targets them with bombings.
The pilgrimage is a major test for the new government headed by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, as well as for Iraq`s security forces, who have struggled to push the militants back.
A major attack during the commemorations in Karbala, where Imam Hussein is buried, would increase already-significant tensions between Iraq`s Shiite majority and Sunni Arab minority, and could spark revenge attacks.