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Official: Series of explosions hit Iraq's holy city of Karbala, killing at least 10
BAGHDAD (AP) ' A series of blasts hit a Shiite holy city in Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 10 people and wounding scores of others. A local resident said he feared the attacks were another attempt by Sunni insurgents to ignite sectarian violence in the country.
Government officials said a total of four explosions struck the city of Karbala around 10 a.m. in a steady drumbeat over a five-minute period, meaning they likely were coordinated.
Two government officials from Karbala ' provincial councilman Hussein Shadhan al-Aboudi and parliamentarian Jawad Kadim al-Hassnawi ' said 10 people died in the blasts. The attacks were launched near an office that issues ID cards to Iraqi citizens and also about a half-mile from the city's gold-domed shrine to Imam Abbas.
Two local police and hospital officials put the death toll at 11. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The number of wounded people ranged from 40 to as high as 90. Conflicting casualty tolls are common in the confusion that immediately follows large attacks in Iraq.
Raed al-Assali, a government employee in Karbala Investment Council said he feared the attacks were another strike by insurgents hoping to spark sectarian violence at a time when the city's Shiites are already simmering over the deaths of 22 pilgrims in a bus hijacking two weeks ago in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province.
"I rushed to rooftop of our building and I saw thick smoke rising from the blast area," said al-Assali, who was sitting in his office doing paperwork when he heard the booms. "Some people in panic were running in the nearby alleys in order to escape fire and danger."
"There's a feeling here that some groups are trying to ignite sectarian sedition by targeting Karbala after the crisis with Anbar," he added, referring to the slaying of the pilgrims.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been trying to tamp down tensions between officials in Karbala and Anbar since the deadly Sept. 12 hijacking of the bus, which was headed to a shrine in Damascus, Syria. Four suspects are being held in the case, and al-Maliki's military advisers say at least some foreigners were among the plotters.
Karbala, 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Baghdad, is one off the holiest cities in Muslim Shiism because two imams ' Abbas and Hussein ' are buried there.
Initial casualty reports said three policemen were killed in the attacks, and eight more were among the wounded. Al-Hassnawi, said at least one of the blasts appeared to target police and rescue teams who rushed to the government ID office after the first explosion.
Associated Press writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report.