Despite—or perhaps partly because of—threats from ISIS militants, a record 15.5 million Shi'ite pilgrams have converged on Karbala for Arbaeen. The holy day marks the end of the 40-day period of mourning after the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein in 680 CE, and has been punctuated by sectarian terror in Iraq in recent years. One was killed and four wounded in mortar attack on the outskirts of the city Dec. 12. Earlier this week, three were killed and four wounded in a bomb attack on a Baghdad encampment of pilgrims headed for Karbala. Another three were in a stampede as they crossed the border from Iran.
Authorities credited a recent military victory against ISIS in the Jurf al-Sakhr area as making the pilgrimage even possible. ISIS control of the enclave south of Baghdad would have made passage towards Karbala certain death for the pilgrims. The mixed Sunni-Shi'ite enclave has been the scene of much sectarian violence in recent years, earning it the local epithet "Triangle of Death." (Middle East Online, AFP, Al Manar, Lebanon, Dec. 12)