A passenger van packed with explosives blew up Friday at a bus station north of Baghdad where Shiite Muslim pilgrims had stopped for the night, killing at least three people and wounding dozens, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
The attack occurred a day after a female suicide bomber struck Shiite pilgrims traveling to Karbala for a major religious festival, killing at least 20 people and wounding at least 75.
Those attacks raised concern that extremists were seeking to reignite the firestorm of sectarian massacres that plunged Iraq to the brink of civil war two years ago before thousands of U.S. reinforcements were rushed to the country.
Hundreds of thousands of Shiites from throughout Iraq have been traveling by foot or by vehicle to Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, for the religious festival.
U.S. and Iraqi officials said the car bomb went off Friday evening at a bus terminal in Balad, a mostly Shiite town surrounded by Sunni Arab villages about 50 miles north of the capital, near one of the major U.S. military bases.
The U.S. military said three people were killed and 48 were wounded. The director of the Balad hospital, Qassim Hatam, said four people died and 40 were injured.
Balad has been relatively free from major attacks since May, and the U.S. military said that nearly 600 former insurgents in the area had agreed to stop fighting and cooperate with the U.S. and its Iraqi partners.
Earlier Friday, a roadside bomb struck a minibus that was beginning the pilgrimage from Baghdad to Karbala, killing at least one passenger and wounding 10, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the pilgrims. Attacks on Shiite civilians, especially during Shiite religious festivals, have been the hallmark of Sunni extremists, including Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The Shiite festival will reach its high point tonight and Sunday morning.
Also Friday, the U.S. military reported the deaths of two more service members -- a Marine in combat the day before west of Baghdad and a soldier who died Friday of “non-battle- related causes” in the capital.
At least 4,143 American military personnel have died during the Iraq war since the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003, according to the independent website icasualties.com.