by Jamal Hashim, Mustafa Sabah
BAGHDAD, July 3 (Xinhua) -- A series of bomb and gunfire attacks in Iraq on Tuesday killed a total of 35 people and wounded 114 others, two days ahead of a major Shiite ritual in the holy city of Karbala.
The deadliest attack occurred before midday in the southern city of Diwaniyah, some 160 km south of Baghdad, when a booby- trapped truck ripped through a busy marketplace in al-Urouba neighborhood in central the city, killing 25 people and wounding 75 others, a local police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The powerful blast destroyed 15 shops and many stalls in the popular vegetable market, along with damaging more than 10 nearby cars, the source said.
Iraqi security forces sealed off the scene, while ambulances and civilian cars evacuated the victims to the city hospitals, the source added.
Diwaniyah authorities imposed a traffic ban in central the city until further notice after the attack, he said.
The attack came a few hours after a coordinated bomb attacks in the holy Shiite city of Karbala, some 110 km south of Baghdad.
Karbala's attack took place at about 7:00 a.m. local time (GMT 0400) when a booby-trapped car detonated at a crowded marketplace in Freiha area, just east of Karbala, an Interior Ministry source anonymously told Xinhua.
A second explosion of a roadside bomb ripped through the scene of the first blast after people and security forces gathered to evacuate the victims, the source said.
"Our report said that a total of four people were killed and 20 others wounded by the two blasts," the source said.
Karbala's twin bombings came as hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims have started to march to the holy city to commemorate the birth of Imam Mahdi, the last of the twelve most revered Shiite's Imams.
Authorities in Karbala expect that the number of pilgrims from Iraqi Shiite cities and outside the country, who started to arrive to observe the ritual ahead of its climax date on Thursday and Friday morning in Karbala will exceed five millions.
However, observers see that Tuesday's bombings are a challenge to the Iraqi security forces, dozens of thousands of soldiers, policemen and other security services have deployed in and outside Karbala and set up dozens of checkpoints.
"We have about 40,000 security members, including 2,000 female policemen, have been deployed in and around Karbala, in addition to 24 helicopters to provide aerial support," Amaal al-Din Majeed, the governor of Karbala told reporters.
"There is more reinforcement troops are coming from other Iraqi provinces to participate in the security plan, in which the security forces will use a large number of explosives detection devices," Majeed said.
Iraqi officials frequently blamed Qaida militant group and some insurgent groups for carrying out attacks against Shiite pilgrims who perform communal rituals, killing and wounding hundreds of them in attempts to provoke sectarian strife in the violence- shattered country.
In north of the Iraqi capital, two roadside bombs went off successively in Taji area, some 20 km north of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding 14 others, the Interior Ministry source said.
Iraqi security forces cordoned off the scene and conducted a search operation in the surrounding area, where the troops found three more car bombs, he said, adding that explosives experts managed to defuse them without casualty.
In Baghdad, three civilian were wounded when a roadside bomb detonated in Ghazaliyah district in western Baghdad, the source said.
In the eastern province of Diyala, an Iraqi army officer was killed and two soldiers wounded when gunmen with assault rifles attacked their checkpoint in southern the town of Buhuz, just south of the provincial capital city of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Separately, the police found bodies of two males with bullet holes in their heads dumped at an orchard near Buhruz, the source said.
In addition, gunmen shot dead a policeman in Sa'diyah al-shat area, some 23 km north of Baquba, the source added.
Also in the province, Iraqi security forces carried out search operations across the province during the past 24 hours and arrested 13 suspects, he said.
Special Report: Situation in Iraq