Baghdad (CNN) – A string of car and roadside bombs exploded in northern and central Iraq Wednesday morning, killing at least 58 people and wounding 156 others, police officials said.
Most of the victims were Shiite Muslim pilgrims, police said.
The attacks Wednesday come after mortar rounds landed on pilgrims in northwestern Baghdad’s Kadhimiya Shiite neighborhood Sunday leaving at least seven people dead and 20 others wounded.
Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims have begun walking to Kadhimya for the annual commemoration of the death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim on Saturday. Many will be traveling by foot or by car, some from across the country, especially southern Shiite provinces.
The shrine to al-Kadhim in Baghdad is one of Shiite Islam’s holiest sites. Al-Kadhim is among 12 revered imams in Shiite Islam.
Wednesday’s attacks are the deadliest since February 23, 2011 when nearly 50 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded. A similar number people died on March 20 of this year in attacks across the country.
Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, thousands of Shiite pilgrims have been killed and wounded by Sunni extremists, including groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq.
While the attacks continue, violence in Iraq is down dramatically since the peak of sectarian violence between 2005 and 2007.
During May, 132 people were killed and 248 others were wounded in violence across the country.
The Egyptian presidential election was held last week. No candidate received 50 percent of the vote, so a runoff will be held between the two leading candidates, Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq. Morsi represented the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and received 25.3 percent of the vote, while Shafiq, a former Egyptian air force commander and the last prime minister to serve in Hosni Mubarak’s administration, received 24.9 percent. There were, of course, charges of irregularities, but in general the results made sense. The Islamist faction had done extremely well in the parliamentary election, and fear of an Islamist president caused the substantial Coptic community, among others, to support the candidate of the old regime, which had provided them at least some security.
Morsi and Shafiq effectively tied in the first round, and either can win the next round. Morsi’s strength is that he has the support of both the Islamist elements and those who fear a Shafiq presidency and possible return to the old regime. Shafiq’s strength is that he speaks for those who fear an Islamist regime. The question is who will win the non-Islamist secularists’ support. They oppose both factions, but they are now going to have to live with a president from one of them. If their secularism is stronger than their hatred of the former regime, they will go with Shafiq. If not, they will go with Morsi. And, of course, it is unclear whether the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military committee that has ruled Egypt since the fall of Mubarak, will cede any real power to either candidate, especially since the constitution hasn’t even been drafted.