BAGHDAD (AP) – Two bombs exploded moments apart near the tomb of a revered Shiite religious figure in central Baghdad on Saturday, killing three people and wounding 22, police and hospital officials said.
The first bomb went off next to the tomb of the ninth-century sheik, Othman al-Omari, where a number of people were praying. A few minutes later, a car bomb exploded in a nearby parking lot as crowds were gathering. The shrine was damaged.
The attack took place in the Bab al-Muadham area of the capital, home to the Health Ministry, other government offices and a number of hospitals.
Police and hospital officials who gave details of the attack and the casualty toll spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not permitted to speak to journalists.
Meanwhile, authorities foiled what appeared to be another sectarian attack, defusing a bomb hidden in a religious book at the Shiite Kazimiyah shrine in northern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said.
The book was presented as a gift to the shrine by an unidentified person, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the incident. Shrine guards became suspicious after the person had left, however, and called police, who discovered the bomb and defused it.
Violence between Shiites and Sunnis drove the country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007. It has since ebbed, although there are still simmering tensions. Recent attacks blamed on Sunni militants from Al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups have targeted Shiite civilians. Iraqi and U.S. officials say the attacks were aimed at rekindling the sectarian violence, but so far Shiite groups have reacted with restraint.
In other attacks Saturday, a bomb attached to a civilian car exploded in the northwest of the capital, killing the driver and wounding two passengers, police said. The motive for the attack was not known.
The persistent violence has frustrated Iraq’s U.S.-trained security forces, which took over from American forces that pulled out of cities and towns before a June 30 deadline.
Violence also still plagues northern Iraq, where Sunni Arab insurgents from al-Qaida in Iraq and other groups built new strongholds after being pushed out of western Anbar province and other parts of the country.
In the northern city of Mosul, a roadside bomb went off near an Iraqi army patrol Saturday, prompting soldiers to open fire to scare off any attackers. A stray bullet from the shooting killed a traffic policeman, police said.