Iraq: bloody Arbaein

On March 6, a suicide bomber killed more than 30 and wounded dozens in a cafe north-east of Baghdad, while a car bomb in the suburb of Saidiya killed seven Shi’ite pilgrims headed for the holy city of Najaf. Elsewhere in the capital, gunmen wounded six pilgrims on their way to the holy city of Karbala. In Hilla, south of Baghdad, a suicide bomber lured unsuspecting pilgrims with cakes, an age-old custom during the annual Arbaeen religious festival. Other gunmen fired on pilgrims from passing cars. More than 1.5 million went to Imam Hussein’s shrine despite the violence which claimed some 140 lives and left 200 wounded on March 6 alone. Shi’ite political leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim joined pilgrims south of Baghdad and vowed that they would not be deterred. “Even Saddam, with all his institutions and strength, was not able to stand in the way of these masses,” he told Furat TV. Arbaein (also rendered Arabaein, Arbaeen, Arba’een, Arbayeen, etc.) marks the end of the 40-day Ashura period commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussien bin Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. (The Guardian, The Age, Australia, Feb. 8; Indian Muslims, Feb. 7)

See our last posts on Iraq and the sectarian cleansing.

See also special report, “Behind the ‘Soldiers of Heaven’: The Shi’ite ‘Cult’ Militia and Iraq’s Apocalypse,” by Sarkis Pogossian