BAGHDAD, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- At least 46 people were killed and 100 others wounded in violent attacks in Iraq on Thursday, including a wave of bombings against Shiite pilgrims, police said.
The deadliest attack occurred around noon when a suicide bomber blew up his explosive vest among a procession of Shiite pilgrims on a highway in Doura district in the southern part of Baghdad, killing 17 pilgrims and wounding 35 others, a police source told Xinhua.
A suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest among Shiite pilgrims near the town of Yousifiyah, some 20 km south of Baghdad, killing eight pilgrims and wounding 32 others, the police source said.
In a similar attack, 10 Shiite pilgrims were killed and 20 others wounded when a suicide bomber targeted them Thursday evening in Latifiyah, some 25 km south of Baghdad, the source added.
The pilgrims were heading to the holy Shiite city of Karbala, some 110 km south of Baghdad, to observe the Arbaeen religious ritual ahead of its climax day next Tuesday.
Arbaeen is the 40th day after the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, Prophet Muhammad's grandson and the third holy figure for the Shiite Islamic sect killed in the battle of Karbala in 680 A.D.
Insurgents frequently attacked Shiite pilgrims who perform communal rituals in the Iraqi cities, killing and wounding hundreds of them in attempts to provoke sectarian strife in the violence-shattered country.
In western Baghdad, gunmen broke into the house of a leader of government-backed Sahwa paramilitary group in Abu Ghraib area, some 25 km west of Baghdad, and shot him dead along with his wife and three sons, a police source told Xinhua.
In a separate incident, two civilians were killed and seven wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in Baghdad's southwestern suburb of Radhwaniyah, the source said.
Meanwhile, a civilian was killed and five were wounded when a roadside bomb ripped through the town of Mshahdah, some 30 km north of Baghdad, the source added.
In northern Iraq, a police chief of Nineveh province escaped with wounds from an attack on his convoy in the city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, a provincial police source told Xinhua, adding one of his guards was killed in the assault.
Also in Nineveh province, a policeman was shot dead in front of his house in the town of Shora, some 40 km south of Mosul, the source said.
Elsewhere, another policeman was shot dead by gunmen in the city of Shirqat, some 280 km north of Baghdad, a local police source said.
Thursday's attacks came amid escalation of sectarian tension between the Sunni and Shiite communities, which has been at its highest level since the U.S. troops pulled out from the country at the end of 2011.
Many Iraqis are worried about a resurgence of violence, ethnic and sectarian strife that nearly tore the country apart a few years ago.
Iraq is witnessing its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, 8,109 Iraqis were killed in the country from January to November this year.