Mourners hold on to the coffin of an Iraqi killed in an attack on pilgrims near Baghdad. Photo: Reuters
Baquba, Iraq: An Iraqi policeman has sacrificed himself as he tried to protect Shiite pilgrims, embracing a suicide bomber just moments before the man exploded, officials said.
The bomber struck on Wednesday in the Khales area northeast of Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 10, a police colonel and a doctor said.
The colonel said one of the dead was a policeman who had been guarding the pilgrims. He threw his arms around the bomber just before the attack in a bid to shield others.
Iraqi policemen search Shi'ite pilgrims as they walk to the holy city of Kerbala. Photo: Reuters
The policeman was Ayyub Khalaf, 34, who was married and had two children, his friend Saad Naim told AFP.
"Ayyub was martyred while defending pilgrims, and his name will be an eternal symbol because he saved the lives of dozens of innocents," Mr Naim said.
"We will take revenge on the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation," he added.
The Khales bombing was the latest in a wave of attacks targeting Shiite pilgrims, including two in Baghdad province that killed at least eight pilgrims on Tuesday, and two car bombings that took the lives of at least 24 on Monday.
Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them on foot, make pilgrimages to the holy city of Karbala during the 40 days after the annual commemoration marking the death of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson, known to Shiites as Imam Hussein.