Baghdad - A series of bombs exploded on Friday at a campaign
rally for a Shi’ite group in Iraq's capital ahead of the country's
parliamentary election, killing at least 11 people and wounding 23, authorities
The explosions struck as about 10 000 people had gathered
at the Industrial Stadium in eastern Baghdad for the Asaib Ahl al-Haq rally, in
which the Shi’ite group planned to announce its candidates for Iraq's
parliamentary election on Wednesday.
An AP reporter at the rally heard intense gunfire follow
the blasts. Attendees fled to a nearby building under construction in the
stadium complex as female parliamentary candidates screamed.
Police and medical officials say the blasts killed at
least 11 people and wounded 23. They said several of the wounded were in
critical condition. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't
authorized to release the information.
Followers of Asaib Ahl al-Haq carried out deadly attacks
against US troops before their withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 and claimed
responsibility for the 2007 kidnapping of a British contractor along with his
The group is backed by Iran and says it is sending
fighters to Syria.
Its leader, Sheik Qais al-Khazali, spent years in US
detention but was released after he was handed over to the Iraqi government.
At the rally on Friday, he gave a brief address that
challenged the Sunni militants holding two cities in Anbar province.
Security guards jumped on al-Khazali and pushed him away
from the stadium after the blasts.
The blasts on Friday highlight the sectarian violence
that's plagued Iraq recently.
Last year, the death toll in the country climbed to its
highest levels since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting between
2006 and 2008. The UN says 8 868 people were killed in 2013, and more than 1 400
people were killed in the first two months of this year alone.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack,
though an al-Qaeda spin-off group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant uses similar tactics.
The group and other Sunni militants frequently use car
bombs and suicide attacks to target public areas and government buildings in
their bid to undermine confidence in the Shi’ite-led government and target Shi’ite
More than 9 000 candidates are taking part in Wednesday's
elections and will vie for 328 seats in parliament. Parts of the
Sunni-dominated Anbar province won't take part in the election due the clashes
there between security forces and al-Qaeda-inspired militants.