Source AP ©

Bomb explodes in Iraqi holy city of Karbala, killing at least 56

A car bomb exploded Saturday in a bus station in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, killing at least 56 people, police and hospital officials said.

More than 70 people were also wounded in the attack, according to an official at Al-Hussein Hospital. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

"The explosion was a huge one. It took place in a crowded area," said Khalid al-Daami, head of the city's security committee. Among the dead were several women and children, he said.

State television aired footage from the scene, in which rescue workers could be seen evacuating casualties. The charred body of a child laid motionless on a stretcher.

Hundreds of people swarmed around ambulances, crying out and pounding their chests in grief.

The attack occurred about 200 meters (yards) from the Imam Hussein shrine, where the grandson of Islam's Prophet Muhammad is buried - one of the most important sites for Shiites.

Witnesses said as many as 15 ambulances rushed to the area, and police were firing into the air to disperse crowds and clear roads for emergency vehicles.

Karbala lies 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, and is the destination of an annual Shiite pilgrimage. Hundreds of Shiite faithful were killed traveling back and forth to the city during this year's pilgrimage, which took place last month.

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