World Bulletin / News Desk
Bombings and shootings in Baghdad and police across Iraq killed at least 53 people on Wednesday in apparently coordinated attacks during a major religious festival.
In Wednesday's attacks, at least 18 people were killed when four bombs hit Shi'ite visitors across Baghdad as they gathered to mark the anniversary of the death of Shi'ite imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of Prophet Mohammad.
One of those blasts killed at least nine people as Shi'ite visitors passed through a police checkpoint in central Baghdad.
"A group of pilgrims were walking and passed by a tent offering food and drinks when suddenly a car exploded near them," said Wathiq Muhana, a policeman whose patrol was stationed near the blast in Karrada district.
"People were running away covered with blood and bodies were scattered on the ground," he said.
Extra security and checkpoints have been in place this week as thousands of Shi'ite visitors arrive in Baghdad to meet at a shrine in the capital's northern Kadhimiyah district for the Shi'ite religious festival.
In a separate attack on Wednesday in the mainly Shi'ite southern city of Hilla, police said two car bombs, including one detonated by a suicide bomber, exploded outside restaurants used by security forces, killing 22 people and wounding 38.
"When a minibus packed with policemen stopped near the restaurants, a car exploded near the bus," said Maitham Sahib, owner of a restaurant in Hilla near the blast. "It's heart breaking. It is just sirens, and screams of wounded people."
Two more car bombs killed four people in the Shi'ite city of Balad, a car bomb in Kerbala killed 3 and wounded 17, and another car bomb in Haswa, 50 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad, killed one person, and wounded four.
Five soldiers were also killed by gunmen in an attack on an army checkpoint in the south of the capital, police said.