An Iraqi police official says a female suicide bomber walking among Shiite pilgrims in northern Baghdad has detonated an explosives belt, killing at least 41 people.
The official says the bomber struck Monday as the pilgrims were walking near the Shiite neighborhood of Shaab. He says that about 106 people have been wounded.
A hospital official also confirmed the casualties. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, Baghdad's top military spokesman, said 19 people were killed and 80 wounded.
Conflicting casualty counts are common in the aftermath of an attack.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are going to Karbala to mark a revered Shiite day.
The bombing was the first major strike this year against pilgrims making their way to the southern holy city of Karbala to mark a revered day on the Shiite calendar. It raised fears of an escalation of attacks when the pilgrimage culminates on Friday.
The bomber, pretending to be a pilgrim, struck as a group of pilgrims made their way through the Shiite-dominated neighborhood of Shaab in northern Baghdad, an Iraqi police official said.
The dead included three women and two children, the official said. He added that about 38 people were wounded, including five women and six children.
A hospital official in Baghdad confirmed the casualties. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
Despite an overall decline in violence in Iraq, al-Qaida and other Sunni extremists have routinely targeted pilgrims in an attempt to stoke sectarian strife and make the Shiite-dominated government look bad.
This week, hundreds of thousands of Shiites make the pilgrimage to Karbala to mark the end of 40 days of mourning that follows Ashoura, the anniversary of the death Imam Hussein, one of two revered Shiite figures buried there.
A steady stream of pilgrims — some carrying green, black or red banners — have been walking through the Shaab neighborhood, following a highway out of Baghdad en route to the shrine.
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