BAGHDAD, Iraq — A chain of six explosions, involving car bombs, motorcycle bombs and roadside bombs was unleashed on the center of the Shiite pilgrimage city of Karbala Sunday, killing 10 civilians and wounding at least 70, Iraqi police said.
The explosions came less than two weeks after a bloody assault on a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims to Syria and underscored the inability of Iraqi security forces to halt attacks of the sort that led to sectarian war between 2005 and 2007.
Sunday's assault in Karbala, which is about 60 miles south of the Iraqi capital, began with the detonation of a roadside bomb near a crowd of Iraqis seeking national identity cards at the center of the city of more than half a million. Five successive explosions followed in the surrounding areas.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the method of operation bore the hallmark of Al Qaida in Iraq and allied Baathists affiliated with former dictator Saddam Hussein.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
A witness who was inside the badge-issuing facility when the first explosion occurred said authorities ordered everyone to evacuate the building. Abu Ameer, who asked that his full name not be used for his own safety, went into a small shop with two other people, not knowing that a worse surprise awaited them.
"I decided to wait for a while until the firefighters finished their work, when another bomb detonated only three meters from me," Abu Ameer said. "Two men were standing between me and the bomb. One of them collapsed at that moment, and the other sustained leg injuries. I fell down but was able to stand after few minutes."
As Abu Ameer returned to the electrical supplies store where he works, he heard the sound of three more explosions.
The attack was the latest in a series directed against Shiites, with the apparent goal of stirring sectarian animosities.
Karbala, capital of the province of the same name, is almost entirely Shiite. The attack on the bus full of pilgrims took place at night on Sept. 12 in Anbar province close to the border of Karbala province and left 22 dead. Security forces from Karbala subsequently crossed into Anbar, a mostly Sunni province, and arrested suspects, an action which threatened to provoke a sectarian uprising in Anbar until Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a Shiitte, stepped and ordered their release.
Hakim al Zamili, a lawmaker from the ruling United Alliance and a member of the security committee of the Iraqi parliament, said he wasn't surprised by the latest attacks.
"There is no safe place in Iraq. The enemies of Iraq can attack anytime and anywhere," said al Zamili, who blamed security forces for the lapse that led to the assault.
"There is a clear weakness in intelligence work, and the security forces are infiltrated by enemies of Iraq," he told McClatchy.
Nabeel Mohammed Saleem, a political science lecturer at Baghdad University, said regional and international groups are trying to draw Iraq back into sectarian violence.
Saleem said he was confident that the insurgencies are not linked to the U.S. troop withdrawal, which is to be completed by Dec. 31, or any other specific factor, but are related more to the Iraqi government's inability to restore law and order.
"The terrorist attacks will continue whether U.S troops leave Iraq or stay," he said, "because there are some groups that have adopted the politics of violence. These groups can't survive in normal circumstances."
(Hammoudi is a McClatchy special correspondent)
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY