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40 Killed in Attacks in Iraq During Shiite Ashura

At least 40 people were killed and more than a hundred wounded Saturday in a series of insurgent attacks across Iraq as Shiites marked their holiest day of Ashura.

In the worst sectarian attack, 19 people were blown apart in a suicide attack carried out by a bomber on a bicycle against a bus carrying pilgrims in Baghdad's Aden Square, police said. Forty others were wounded.

In another attack Saturday in Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew himself up after exchanging fire with security forces. One US solider was killed, the US military said in a statement.

A suicide bomber on a moped attacked a group of people attending a funeral on Saturday in Baghdad. Four mourners were killed and 39 wounded, hospital staff said.

Four Iraqis were killed and several others wounded Saturday in a mortar attack that apparently targeted Shiite Muslims as they were returning from commemorating Ashura in Baghdad.

Three mortar rounds landed near the al-Nidaa mosque close to Baghdad's mixed Shiite and Sunni neighborhood of al-Qahira, police said. Hospitals in Baghdad received four bodies and more than a dozen wounded people, they said.

There were no immediate claims for the Baghdad attacks, but Sunni militants have vowed to target the Shiite community, which won a majority of seats in the new parliament following last month's elections.

Ashura is dedicated to the mourning of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, who was killed defending his faith along with his families in 680 AD in Karbala, 110 km south of Baghdad.

Ashura, meaning ten in Arabic, takes place on the 10th day of Muharam, the first month in the Islamic lunar calendar, which falls on Feb. 19 this year.

Last year's commemoration of Ashura was marred by bombings in Baghdad and Karbala that killed about 170 people.

 (Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2005)

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