Iraq has witnessed its bloodiest strikes against Shi’ites in months. Two holy cities were targeted. In Najaf, a car bomb exploded, killing at least 48 people. Around 90 were injured in the attack near the Imam Ali mosque, the most sacred shrine for the country’s Shi’ite majority. The blast ripped through a busy square in the city centre. A curfew has been imposed and roadblocks have been set up. Local authorities have blamed al Qaeda, accusing it of trying to intimidate Iraqis ahead of landmark elections next month.
In Kerbala, south of Baghdad, another car bomb detonated near the bus station, killing at least 14 people and injuring more than 55. Officials said a suicide attacker had first attempted to blow up a police training school. In the capital, insurgents dragged three election workers from a car and shot them dead. Authorities have warned that extremists will intensify their campaign to derail the country’s first fully democratic poll in decades, scheduled for January 30.