At least 29 Iraqis have been killed in ambushes, car bombs and firefights as Shiite Muslims headed to the city of Karbala for Ashura, one of their most sacred ceremonies.
A car bomb ripped through Baghdad's Sadr City, killing eight people and wounding 18, a security source said Sunday. Mortar shells rained down Sunday on a girls' secondary school in a mostly Sunni area of western Baghdad, killing five pupils and wounding 21, witnesses and police said.
North of the central shrine city of Najaf, three Iraqi soldiers died and four policemen were injured in a dawn battle that pitted Iraqi and US forces against insurgents, defense and security sources said.
According to AFP, nine other Iraqis died Sunday, mostly from bombs in or around Baghdad and in the disputed northern oil city of Kirkuk.
South of the Iraqi capital, security has been beefed up along the 110 kilometres of highway from Baghdad to Karbala that runs through the Sunni "triangle of death.". Ashura ceremonies culminate on Tuesday, and about 10,000 Iraqi police and troops from the area were to protect Shiite pilgrims from attacks that have marred the event in recent years.
Also Sunday, American soldiers captured 21 suspects including an al-Qaeda courier in a series of raids in Baghdad and Sunni areas north and west of the capital, the U.S. command said. Three of the suspects were believed to have close ties to the leadership of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the military said, according to the AP. The U.S. military also reported Sunday that a Marine died the day before from wounds suffered in fighting in Anbar province.