Staggered explosions targeting Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims killed at least 13 people and injured 74 on Thursday, authorities said, raising fears of further sectarian attacks at the approach of Shi'ite Islam's most solemn holiday.
The deaths come three days before the climax of Ashoura, when hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims travel across Iraq to the holy city of Karbala.
Police Maj. Muthana Khalid said a first bomb exploded around 2 p.m. Thursday in Hillah, the capital of Babil province, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Baghdad. He said the second explosion came as police rushed to the scene 15 minutes later, a common tactic used by insurgents to maximize casualties.
The bombs targeted Shi'ite pilgrims who had gathered near a bus station in downtown Hillah, which is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Karbala.