Two separate blasts killed five people and wounded nearly three dozen Saturday, Iraqi officials said, in the latest reminder of the violence and instability in the country as U.S. troops prepare to leave.
The first bomb, hidden in an empty rickshaw, blew up near Shiite pilgrims headed to the holy city of Karbala early Saturday morning, killing two people and wounding 26, two policemen said. A doctor in Karbala confirmed the casualty figures.
The pilgrims were standing in line for a ride to Karbala, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of Baghdad, for celebrations marking the birthday of Mohammed al-Mahdi, the twelfth and so-called hidden imam, who disappeared in the ninth century. Millions of pilgrims who flock to the city several times each year are often targeted by insurgents looking to stoke sectarian violence.
In Baghdad, a bomb in a minibus parked outside a restaurant and nightclub in the Karradah neighborhood killed three passers-by and wounded at least nine, according to a police officer and a medic at the nearby Ibin al-Nafis hospital.
The blast sent a huge cloud of black smoke over Baghdad's Andalus square, and firefighters struggled to put out the blaze.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
With Iraq still plagued by widespread violence, Washington and Baghdad are considering keeping as many as 10,000 U.S. forces in the country beyond a year-end departure deadline. In an interview Friday night, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki repeated his long-standing offer for a small number of American military trainers to stay and help Iraq's fledgling security forces.
Both nations are moving toward a troops withdrawal, and Shiite Muslim militias have stepped up attacks on U.S. forces to push out the American military at the end of the year.
On Friday, a U.S. soldier was killed while conducting military operations in Iraq's south, the fourth death so far this month for American forces in Iraq. The soldier was not identified pending notification of next of kin.
The death brings to 4,473 the number of American troops who have died in Iraq since the war started in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. In June alone, 15 soldiers died _ the highest number in two years. Nearly all were killed in attacks from Shiite militias that the U.S. says are backed by Iran.
Associated Press writers Bushra Juhi and Lara Jakes contributed to this report.