AT least 51 people died when a pair of car bombs yesterday blasted through security checkpoints ringing the Iraqi holy city of Karbala.
Most of the victims were Shiite pilgrims travelling to observe yearly religious rituals.
It was the latest in a wave of attacks in recent days, as insurgents test Iraqi security forces ahead of the planned US withdrawal at the end of the year.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the bombings bore the hallmark of al-Qa'ida and other Sunni-dominated extremist groups.
They frequently target Shiite pilgrimages in hopes of re-igniting sectarian violence.
Authorities estimated as many as 183 people were injured in the blasts set off by suicide bombers driving cars packed with explosives.