Baquba (Iraq): A suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt among Shiite pilgrims walking northeast of the Iraqi capital, one of several attacks that killed a total of nine people today, officials said.
The bomber struck in the Khales area, killing five people and wounding 10, a police colonel and a doctor said.
The colonel said one of the dead was a policeman tasked with guarding the pilgrims, who embraced the bomber just before the attack in an effort to shield others from the blast.
It was the latest in a series of attacks on Shiite pilgrims in recent days, including two in Baghdad province that killed at least eight pilgrims yesterday, and two car bombs targeting pilgrims that left at least 24 dead the day before.
Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them on foot, make pilgrimages to the holy city of Karbala during the 40 days after the annual commemoration marking the death of the Prophet Mohammed`s grandson, known to Shiites as Imam Hussein.
The 40th day, known as Arbaeen, falls on December 23 this year.
Sunni militants, including those linked to Al-Qaeda, frequently target members of Iraq`s Shiite majority, whom they consider to be apostates.
Also today, a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul killed two people and wounded two others, while gunmen killed two soldiers and wounded two more in an attack on a checkpoint, police and a morgue official said.
Violence in Iraq has reached a level this year not seen since 2008, when the country was just emerging from a period of brutal sectarian killings.
More people died in violence in the first eight days of this month than in the whole of last December, and over 6,550 people have been killed since the beginning of 2013, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.