Iraq: Shi’ite pilgrims massacred as Muharram holy days open

A female suicide bomber killed at least 35, including women and children, and wounded 65 others in an attack on a religious procession near the holy Kadhimiyah shrine in northern Baghdad Jan. 4. The woman blew herself up at a checkpoint as Shi’ite pilgrims commemorating the Muharram ceremonies converged on the mausoleum of Imam Mousa al-Kadhim, Baghdad’s most important Shi’ite site shrine.

The attack came as pilgrims, many of them Iranians, took part in ceremonies related to the Muharram holy period that climax on Ashura, which this year falls on Jan. 7. The commemoration mourns the killing of Imam Hussein by armies of the Sunni caliph Yazid in the year 680. Shi’ite pilgrims from around the Middle East throng to Iraq to visit the nation’s holy sites during the holy period. (Dispatch Online, South Africa, Jan. 5, from AFP, SAPA)

Last year’s Ashura celebrations were again an occasion for sectarian violence, and pilgrims in the Kadhimiyah district were attacked by Sunni militant snipers in 2006. More recently, attacks on Shi’ite districts have been blamed on internecine Shi’ite factionalism.

See our last post on Iraq’s sectarian war.

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