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Twin car bombs kill 25 in Iraqi city of Karbala

BAGHDAD - Two car bombs targeting Shia pilgrims during a religious festival in the holy city of Karbala killed 25 people on yesterday, Iraqi police and hospital officials said. Sunni extremists are suspected.

Militants detonated two parked cars filled with explosives about two miles apart as crowds of pilgrims passed by.

Police and medical officials in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, said 68 people were injured in the attacks.

The pilgrims were on their way to Karbala to take part in an important religious holiday, known as Shabaniyah, that attracts devout Shias from around the country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for yesterday's bombings, but the method is the hallmark of Sunni extremists.

While violence has dropped dramatically in the past years in Iraq, suspected Sunni insurgents regularly target Shia religious ceremonies and holy places in an attempt to reignite sectarian tensions that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2005 and 2007.

The Shabaniyah festival marks the birth of Imam Mohammed al-Mahdi - known as the "Hidden Imam" - a Shia saint who disappeared in the ninth century, and is held in the middle of the month preceding the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Devout Shias believe the Hidden Imam will return someday to usher in peace and harmony in the world, and hundreds of thousands flock to Karbala for the celebration.

Earlier yesterday in Baghdad, a suicide bomber driving a minibus blew himself up in front of the Baghdad office of a popular Arabic news station, killing six people and burying a lawmaker alive under the rubble of his collapsed home, police and hospital officials said.

The attack at the offices of pan-Arab news channel Al-Arabiya was a reminder of the persistent dangers both Iraqi and foreign journalists face in the country.

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