A female suicide bomber attacked a crowd of Shi’ite pilgrims today as thousands flocked to a holy shrine to commemorate the Battle of Karbala, killing at least 40 and injuring another 72. The local hospital was overwhelmed by the casualties.
But while this is a fairly major attack in the new “optimistic” Iraq, the most noteworthy thing is that the attacker reportedly singled out a procession of Iranian pilgrims in the attack, and that nearly half of the casualties, 16 dead and 32 wounded, were from Iran. Another busload of Iranian pilgrims was also attacked earlier in the day in Diyala Province.
Shi’ites are regularly attacked during religious pilgrimages in Iraq, but the deliberate targeting of Iranians is something new entirely. With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a two-day visit to Iran to improve relations between the two nations, the attack is unlikely to be a coincidence. Indeed, Iran has had trouble with its own Sunni insurgency in recent weeks, and a suicide bomber killed four early last week in Saravan.