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Baghdad Bombs Targeting Shi'ite Pilgrims Kill Five

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Roadside bombs have exploded as minibuses carrying Shi'ite Muslims home from pilgrimage passed in Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 19, police said.

Two roadside bombs struck two minibuses in separate incidents in the poor Baghdad Shi'ite district of Sadr City on August 7. Three people were killed and eight wounded in one blast, and one person was killed and another five wounded in the other.

Another roadside bomb struck a minibus in eastern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding six others, a hospital source said.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims poured into Iraq's holy city of Kerbala on August 6 to mark the birth of Imam Mohammed al-Mehdi, a Messiah-like figure Shi'ites believe vanished centuries ago and will return to bring peace on earth.

The event was the second major religious gathering in Iraq since the withdrawl of U.S. combat troops from urban centres on June 30, which thrust Iraqi security forces into the leading role.

The August 6 pilgrimage and the previous event passed largely peacefully, but insurgent attacks are still common, raising doubts about the Iraqi security forces' ability to stand alone.

A series of bomb blasts near five Shi'ite mosques killed 31 people a week ago.

Shi'ite religious gatherings are frequent target of Sunni Islamist militants such as Al-Qaeda, who consider Shi'ites heretics.