Updated at 10:46 p.m. EST, Jan. 4, 2009
Thousands of Shi’ite pilgrims, many foreign, are making their way to Karbala to observe the Ashuraa holiday which culminates in three days. As in the past, troublemakers have taken advantage of the 10-day holiday despite increases in security. Overall, at least 27 Iraqis were killed and 52 Iraqis were wounded across Iraq, while approximately 16 Iranians were killed and 37 more were wounded at an important shrine in Baghdad. No Coalition deaths were reported. Meanwhile, outgoing U.S. Vice President Cheney said that the U.S. is close to achieving its aims in Iraq, and U.S. forces handed over authority of a security group in Diyala to the Iraqis.
In Baghdad, a suicide bomber struck at the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine in Kadhimiya, where he killed 40 people and wounded 79 others. About 16 of the dead and 32 of the wounded are believed to be Iranian pilgrims. One witness said that the bomber, earlier believed to be female, would have had to cross several checkpoints before reaching the one just outside the shrine.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, a roadside bomb in Saidiya wounded three people, including an Iraqi army officer. A body was found on Palestine Street. Also, officials in the Green Zone observed “Army Day” and reiterated their pledge to make Iraq a more secure, stable country.
In Mosul, a pair of bombs yesterday separately killed one civilian and wounded a security officer. Also, four al-Qaeda suspects were captured.
A roadside bomb near Mandali killed one shepherd and wounded a second.
Five Iranian pilgrims were wounded when they came across a roadside bomb in Khanaqin.
The return of displaced families to Balad Ruz was delayed because intelligence officials fear that over 100 al-Qaeda members have concentrated there, making it unsafe for the refugees to return.
Three suspects were detained in Hawija.
Four wanted suspects were captured across Basra, while an IED was defused in al-Deir.
Two wanted men were arrested in Daquq.
Seven suspects were detained in Baquba.
Karbala police have instituted a complete car ban during Ashuraa observances. This includes even official vehicles.
During a ceremony in Baquba today, U.S. authorities handed over control of the provincial Awakening Councils to their Iraqi counterparts. These Sunni-populated councils have been credited with reducing the violence across Iraq, but the central government is wary of them because many members were former militants. The member likewise do not trust the Shi’ite-led central government to keep their end of the bargain which includes paying the members their salaries. The handover in Diyala province is even trickier as the province remains politically sensitive and violent.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis
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