At least 50 people are reported dead in a bomb attack apparently targeting Shi’ite pilgrims in Iraq.
Between 150 and 200 people are also thought to have been injured in the twin blasts near Kerbala, 80 kilometres south of Baghdad. Local officials say the bombs were hidden in two cars parked outside a security cordon.
Most of the dead are pilgrims who had been flocking to Kerbala as part of the Shi’ite holy festival, Arbain. The rite is regularly targeted by Sunni extremist group al-Qaeda.
Earlier in the day, a suicide bomber drove a car into police headquarters in the volatile Diyala province, killing at least three people and wounding around 30 others.
A series of attacks against security forces that began on Tuesday has already claimed more than 65 lives. At least 49 police recruits were killed in Tikrit on Tuesday as they lined up to get jobs.
Analysts say the recent assaults are designed to undermine the Shi’ite-led government of Nuri al-Maliki ahead of the complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, scheduled for the end of this year.