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Female suicide bomber kills 41 in Baghdad

Attacker among Shiite pilgrims:

IRAQ: A female suicide bomber blew herself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims on their way by foot to a shrine city in central Iraq on Monday, killing 41 people including women and children.

Officials said the attack that also wounded 106 people targeted a rest station where pilgrims had stopped on their long journey to Karbala, 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Baghdad, for a religious festival.

Suicide attack
* Officials said the attack wounded 106 people

* Woman wearing an explosives -filled belt blew herself up

"At 11:45 am (0845 GMT), a woman wearing an explosives-filled belt blew herself up in the middle of a crowd of pilgrims going to Karbala," said Major General Qassim Atta, spokesman for Baghdad operational command.

An interior ministry official gave the toll and said the wounded were being treated at five hospitals in the capital.

At least five women and six children were among the dead, a medical official said earlier. "We were serving the people when the attack occurred inside a search tent for women," said Allawi Hassan, who was being treated at Kindi hospital in Baghdad.

"The moment the explosion happened I felt as if I was flying through the air. I saw men, women and children wounded before I fainted. I then found myself in hospital," added Hassan, whose legs were hit by shrapnel.

The victims had been travelling on foot from the central province of Diyala to Karbala to observe Arbaeen rituals.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office in a statement blamed the Baath party of executed dictator Saddam Hussein for the attack.

"We hold Baathists and their Takfiri allies responsible for this massacre," it said.

Takfiri is a term used by the Iraqi government to refer to Al-Qaeda members.

Defence ministry spokesman General Mohammed al-Askari said the bomber came from Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, that has in the past been a stronghold of Al-Qaeda which still has a local presence.

"Apart from today, there have already been 25 other attacks carried out by women suicide bombers coming from the province," he told AFP. Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary that commemorates the killing of revered 7th century Imam Hussein, whose shrine is considered one of the holiest places in Shiite Islam.

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