Updated at 8:58 p.m. EST, Feb. 3, 2009
Despite heightened security, two bombs exploded in or near the holy city of Karbala, where the blasts killed or wounded scores of Shi’ite pilgrims. Overall, at least 38 Iraqis were killed and 179 more were wounded across the country. Meanwhile, an Iraqi appeals court struck down a controversial election ban that prohibited hundreds of candidates from running in March elections. Also, the nation’s first female African-American POW has written a book describing her war experiences.
At least 23 people were killed and 147 others were wounded during a suicide attack in Karbala. The bomber was seen passing out fruit when a bomb planted on his motorbike exploded. Last night, a separate blast targeting a military vehicle, but also harming pilgrims, left three dead and 21 injured; at least one more person was reported injured in that attack. It is impossible to tell at this point if any of the casualties were foreign visitors; however, many of the victims were residents of Hilla.
Millions of Shi’ites are expected in Karbala for this week’s observance of Arbaeen. The holiday marks forty days since Ashura, which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein in 640 A.D. His death was one of the significant events the spurred the split between Sunnis and Shi’ites. Because many pilgrims travel in buses or on foot to Karbala it makes them easy targets for sectarian violence.
A controversial election ban has been lifted. An Iraqi appeals court struck down the controversial blacklist created by the country’s Accountability and Justice (De-Ba’athification) Committee. The decision angered Ali Faisal al-Lami, who is the creator of the blacklist and an aide to Ahmed Chalabi. Over 500 candidates were originally banned on suspicion of having ties to the defunct Ba’ath Party or to Saddam Hussein, but the list was recently cut down to 450 candidates. Many believed the ban was politically motivated and unfairly targeted Sunnis. The blacklist was a significant source of pre-election tensions and could have thrown the whole election into chaos. Separately, Sweden has offered to supervise elections in Baghdad and four restive provinces in the north.
In Baghdad, a blast killed one pilgrim and wounded three more in Mansour. Four pilgrims were wounded in a second bomb attack in Amil.
One policeman was killed and two others were wounded in Kirkuk, during a clash between personnel from two different police departments. Gunmen killed a policeman near his home. Also, ten suspects were arrested.
In Mosul, a clash between police and gunmen left three policemen, three gunmen and an eight-year-old girl dead in Yarmouk. An army lieutenant was killed in a blast.
A bomb in Fallujah wounded a civilian.
In Tuz Khormato, a teacher was kidnapped.
A Naqshabandiya Army suspect was arrested in Baquba.
Fifteen suspects were arrested across Basra province. Two robbery gangs were also captured.
A weapons cache was discovered in Zubair.
Local security forces in Tal Afar said their plan to protect pilgrims traveling to Karbala was successful. A high-ranking investigation committee traveled to the city to look into claims that some terror cases were manipulated.
Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay and U.S. Gen. Ray Odierno met in Ankara to discuss the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The Kurdish militant group is seeking a truce with Turkey but has used Iraqi bases during their two-decades-long guerilla war.