Violence against Arbaeen pilgrims not only continued today, but a bomber was able to plant explosives less than 1 km from an important shrine in Karbala. This attack and others across Iraq left at least 22 Iraqis dead and another 53 wounded. A U.S. soldier died from non-combat causes in Baghdad on Sunday. Meanwhile, amidst signs of a warming relationship between Tehran and Washington, Iran requested the release of its citizens currently held by U.S. authorities in Iraq; as many as five men, possibly diplomats, are in custody.
A roadside bomb planted less than 1 km from the Imam Hussein shrine blasted 12 pilgrims to their deaths and wounded another 45 in Karbala. The Arbaeen observance marks forty days since the Ashoura holiday, which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. The Imam, who was a grandson of Muhammad, is buried at the shrine. The schism between Shi’ites and Sunnis began with his death. Arbaeen is among the most important festivals of the Shi’ite religious calendar and thousands of pilgrims make the journey to Karbala for the culmination of the observance. Because many travel by foot, it makes them easy targets for sectarian violence.
In Mosul, four policemen were killed and five others were wounded during a roadside bomb attack that targeted a police patrol. Gunmen killed a senior member of the Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party during a drive-by shooting. Separately, gunmen also killed senior member of the National Dialogue Front.
Two dumped bodies were found in Saidiya.
The body of a taxi driver was found in an orchard in Iskandariya.
A body was found near Diwaniya.
In Baquba, a bomb hidden in garbage wounded three people.
Five suspects were captured in Muqdadiya.
A series of rocket strikes at Camp Echo near Diwaniya left no reported casualties.
Iranian artillery bombed suspected Kurdish rebel locations in northeastern Iraq.
Thirty detainees, held in Kurdistan since 2006, were freed after a meeting between Kurdish and Arab officials. Most of the detainees are originally from Ninewa province.
During a press conference, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani argued that provincial elections demonstrated federalism would be a better track for Iraq than a highly centralized government. Relations between Kurdistan and the central government have grown tense over the last year, with Kurdish officials at times allegedly calling Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a dictator. The Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottak was in attendance.
Residents of Camp Ashraf claimed that security forces refused entry to their relatives for a visit. The camp is home to a group of Iranian refugees who fear returning home to torture and execution. Iraq would like to see the camp closed and could likely be prohibiting visitation to encourage to the group to leave on their own. No third country has been willing to accept the group. Iraq, Iran and the U.S. view the group as terrorists, but the E.U. recently took the group of its own terror lists.
Also, Justice officials said that four Guantánamo detainees who are now in Iraqi custody are not wanted for crimes but will be held for two more weeks to determine if they are threats to security. The group was captured in Afghanistan.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis