Bombing against pilgrims kills 23 in Iraq as hundreds protest

May 2, 2016 - 15:28

A car bomb targeting Shia pilgrims killed at least 23 people near Baghdad on Saturday, as hundreds protested in the capital for reforms and parliament made another attempt to reshuffle the cabinet.

Iraq has been hit by weeks of political turmoil surrounding Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s efforts to change the government.

Both Washington and the United Nations have warned the crisis could distract from the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) terrorist group, which carries out frequent bombings against civilians.

The car bomb, which also wounded at least 38 people, struck a road in the Nahrawan area used by Shia pilgrims who are walking to the shrine of Imam Musa Kadhim in northern Baghdad for annual commemorations, officials said.

ISIL claimed the attack and said it was carried out by a suicide bomber who detonated a vehicle laden with three tons of explosives.

ISIL considers Iraq’s majority Shia to be heretics.

ISIL overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained significant ground.

The ISIL terrorist still control a large part of western Iraq, and are able to carry out frequent attacks against both civilians and security forces in government-held areas.

Last year’s pilgrimage was also marred by attacks against worshippers that killed at least 13 people.

The Saturday bombing came as hundreds of people turned out in Baghdad for a demonstration aimed at pressuring the government to carry out reforms, the latest in a series of such protests in the capital.

Demonstrators gathered at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and near the heavily-fortified Green Zone, where the government is headquartered.

Abadi has called for the current government of party-affiliated ministers to be replaced with technocrats, a move opposed by powerful political parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.

Key government posts have for years been shared out based on political and sectarian quotas, a practice demonstrators want to end.

Parliament has repeatedly been hit by chaos related to efforts to change the cabinet in recent weeks, with MPs holding an overnight sit-in at parliament, brawling in the chamber and seeking to sack speaker Salim al-Juburi before electing an interim replacement who has chaired his own rival sessions.

Lawmakers approved some of Abadi’s nominees for the new cabinet on Tuesday, but MPs who opposed Juburi and sought to disrupt the session were barred from attending, raising questions about its legality.

Iraqi MPs were due to meet Saturday for a vote on additional candidates, but failed to reach a quorum for a morning session, leading Juburi to call for another in the afternoon.
(Source: AFP)


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