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Bombs strike heart of Baghdad and Karbala in Iraq

Bombs kill dozens in the capital and Shiite shrine city of Karbala, figures reveal extent of Saudi involvement in wave of suicide attacks in Iraq
Men inspect the destruction after a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint in Baghdad's Sadr City on 14 October (AFP)

The latest car bomb attack to hit Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, killed at least 11 people on Monday and left some 26 injured, according to a security source.

The bomber detonated his explosives as worshippers at a Shiite mosque in the Sinak area of central Baghdad left noon prayers.

It is the second such attack targeting Shiite worshippers in 48 hours - an explosion by a suicide bomber targeted a funeral ceremony at a Shiite mosque in eastern Baghdad on Sunday, leaving 19 people dead and 28 injured.

Sunday’s deadly bomb hit a suburb of the city, al-Harithiya, which had until then been relatively free of the explosions that have plagued Iraq’s capital since the US-led invasion in 2003.

A map of the car bombs to hit Baghdad since 2003 (@brilliantmaps / MEE)

Islamic State militants, who have been in control of Iraq’s second city of Mosul since June, have claimed responsibility for the majority of bombings in the capital in the past month.

While Baghdad has recently become a focus for suicide attacks, the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, some 100 kilometres south-west of the capital, has also seen a number of deadly explosions.

An image circulating purports to show the site of one of Monday's bomb blast in Karbala (Twitter / @aakhaleeed)
In the latest series of blasts, three cars laden with explosives blew up in the city on Monday, leading to an unknown number of deaths and injuries, according to a security source who spoke to local news site al-Sumaria.

Local news site al-Wasat gives a primary toll of at least 10 dead and 40 injured in the triple attacks.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Karbala, famous for being the site where Shiite hero Imam Husayn was killed, had until Monday been relatively unscathed by the recent wave of suicide attacks.

45 percent of Iraq bombers were Saudi nationals

The attacks, which appear to be an attempt to ignite sectarian tensions in Iraq, come as it is revealed that the majority of Islamic State suicide bombers to launch attacks in Iraq in the past 45 days were Saudi nationals.

Zaid Benjamin, an independent journalist working in Washington, compiled a list of the identity of the dozens of suicide bombers from statements issued by the militant group itself.

He found that, of the 31 IS fighters to launch suicide attacks in Iraq during that period, 14 of them were originally from Saudi Arabia.

Highlighted in red, the 14 bombers who IS says came from Saudi Arabia (Twitter / @zaidbenjamin)

Stephane Lacroix, a political scientist at Sciences Po, told MEE that while Saudi Arabia has not directly funded the group, channels of private funding have reached IS from the Gulf State, which has now become one of the US’s key allies in the fight to “degrade and destroy” the group.

He also said that some religious scholars, who are to some extent allowed to act autonomously, have been allowed to express support for extremist groups, including IS to some extent.

Lacroix told MEE that the group’s expressed ideology “certainly has appeal within the Saudi population.”

“The sectarian element [of IS discourse]…is of course something that resonates with the worldview of many Saudis.”

Regarding the reports that surfaced on Monday, the embassy of Saudi Arabia in London gave no comment, but directed reporters to previous statements on the embassy’s website.