Iraqi officials say a female suicide bomber has blown herself up among a crowd of Shi'ite pilgrims in Baghdad, killing at least 41 people and wounding more than 100 others.
Officials say the attack happened inside a tent where Shi'ite pilgrims were undergoing security checks and being served food and drink. The pilgrims from the northeastern province of Diyala had stopped in Baghdad as they traveled by foot to the southern Shi'ite holy city of Karbala.
The pilgrims were among hundreds of thousands of Shi'ites walking to Karbala to join rituals marking (Arbain,) the end of 40 days of mourning for the death of a revered 7th-century Shi'ite cleric. The shrine of Imam Hussein is located in Karbala.
Sunni insurgents in Iraq have routinely attacked Shi'ite pilgrims in recent years in a campaign to ignite a sectarian conflict. Monday's suicide bombing is the deadliest targeting Shi'ite pilgrims in Iraq this year.
Iraqi officials and U.S. forces have expressed concern that insurgents may step up attacks in Iraq to try to disrupt a parliamentary election scheduled for March 7.
It will be Iraq's second such election since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Iraq's Sunni Arabs largely boycotted the last parliamentary election in 2005.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill said Monday the success of the upcoming election will depend greatly on whether the losers accept the outcome.
Hill also says he is confident that Iraq will resolve a pre-election controversy over a government committee's decision to bar more than 400 candidates from competing. The panel cited the candidates' ties to the outlawed Ba'ath party of Iraq's executed Sunni dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi Sunnis reacted angrily to the committee's move, accusing the Shi'ite-led government of trying to marginalize Sunni politicians. Ambassador Hill says it is important that Iraqi authorities are transparent so that people can see why candidates have been disqualified.