Eight Shiite pilgrims killed in Iraq suicide attack

Baghdad, ACCRA, APRIL 23, (dpa/GNA) – Eight Shiite pilgrims were killed and 17 others injured in a suicide attack in the holy city of Samara, north of Baghdad, police said Thursday.

A suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up on Wednesday night amid crowds of pilgrims commemorating the death of the ninth-century Shiite Imam Ali al-Hadi, police said.

The shrine dedicated to Ali al-Hadi and his son Hassan al-Askari is one of the holiest sites of Shiite Islam.

It was devastated by a 2006 bomb attack blamed on Sunni extremists that triggered retaliatory violence across the country, claiming hundreds of lives.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Islamic State extremist group has been responsible for numerous previous attacks on Shiite civilians as well as security forces.

Samarra, despite its mainly Sunni population, has been a stronghold of Iraqi government forces and pro-government Shiite militias since Islamic State captured large areas of Sunni-dominated northern and western Iraq last year.

It was one of the launching points for a major offensive last month that saw government troops and militias recapture the key Sunni city of Tikrit, some 50 kilometres further north, from Islamic State. GNA

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