The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

Iraqi bomber kills 39 Shiite pilgrimage

Iraq bomb blastA female suicide bomber blew herself up in a crowd of Iraqi Shi’ite pilgrims on Friday, killing 39 people and wounding 69 others during one of the holiest events of the Shi’ite Muslim calendar, police said.

The attack on the pilgrimage route in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, came a day after a bomb killed eight in the Shi’ite holy city of Kerbala, to which hundreds of thousands if not millions were headed to mark Arbain.

Arbain has been a frequent target of suspected Sunni Islamist bombers since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. It marks the end of an annual mourning period for the death in battle of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein in the seventh century.

“She sat among the women and detonated herself,” said Dhergham Ali as he covered fragments of flesh at the roadside blast site with carpets. The suicide bomber struck an area where pilgrims rest on their long walk to Kerbala and are given food.

Some pilgrims, hardened to attacks by insurgents over the last few years, said the bombs would not deter them.

“We came here for the pilgrimage. Nothing will stop us. We aren’t afraid. We’ve been through worse events in the past,” said Sadia Ali, 63, from Baghdad’s Sadr City slum.

The attacks occurred despite heavy security on the pilgrimage route. The ranks of troops and police patrolling Kerbala were boosted by 5,000 to 30,000, a city official said.

Five million pilgrims were in town, said provincial governor Aqil al-Khazali, a number that could not be verified.

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The Arbain rite, which culminates early on Monday, is difficult to secure because of the thousands of pilgrims who walk for hundreds of km (miles), clutching religious banners.

Shi’ite religious rites have drawn huge crowds in Iraq since the invasion that toppled the Sunni-led government of Saddam Hussein, who curtailed large Shi’ite gatherings.

But the events have been bloody, targeted by Sunni insurgents such as al Qaeda in the sectarian bloodshed that followed Saddam’s fall. Al Qaeda views Shi’ites as heretics. A suicide attack during Arbain last year killed 63 people.

“These cowardly actions will not undermine the determination and patience of the pilgrims. We call upon our people and especially the security forces to take more precautions and be alert,” said a statement on the website of Ayatollah Sadiq al-Husseini al-Shirazi, a member of Iraq’s top Shi’ite clergy.

Emergency services were on high alert, and people were asked to give blood as a precaution. “I have been sleeping in the ambulance,” said emergency worker Ahmed Kadhom.

Kadhom said that after Thursday’s attack in Kerbala, he saw a grief-stricken man carrying his dead young son. “He was shouting and crying. I will never forget this scene,” he said.

Militants have increasingly used women for suicide bombings because they are less likely to be thoroughly searched by male guards, and because their voluminous robes can conceal vests packed with explosives and ball bearings or nails.

“Our intelligence suggests a number of female suicide bombers will try to blow themselves up during the pilgrimage and we have increased searches as a result,” said Major General Othman al-Ghanimi, the Iraqi army commander in Kerbala.

A recent sharp drop in violence helped allies of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki score victories in the Shi’ite south in local elections last month. But the security gains are fragile, and suicide and car bomb attacks remain common.

Security sources have also warned of a possible rise in attacks due to Maliki’s strong electoral showing, as rivals and militants try to undermine the perception that the insurgency is on its last legs and that Maliki can claim some of the credit.

Source: Reuters


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