Updated at 12:25 p.m. EST, Dec. 25, 2009
Although the Christmas holiday will be celebrated in Iraq tomorrow, gunmen chose to target Shi’ite Ashura pilgrims instead of Christians today. At least 46 Iraqis were killed and 194 more were wounded in mostly Ashura-related violence. One Iranian pilgrim was injured, though more victims could be foreign nationals.
Because Christians have chosen to quietly celebrate their holiday this year, Ashura pilgrims are the easier marks. Many pilgrims, who are all Shi’ites, travel to the holy city of Karbala for observances. Some engage in bloody flogging and cutting rites that make them obvious targets. Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Hussein in 680 A.D. It is one of the major sources of the Shi’ite/Sunni split.
At a bus station in Hilla, a pair of coordinated attacks killed 25 people and wounded 105 more. The first bomb targeted Ashura pilgrims. Fifteen minutes later a second explosion blasted first responders.
In a related incident, a checkpoint guard shot and killed a provincial councilman, who was also a medical doctor, as the councilman was speeding towards the scene. Three explosives experts were injured apparently defusing a third bomb; as they worked on it, the second bomb triggered it to explode.
In Baghdad, a blast at a funeral gathering in Zaafaraniya left three dead and 20 wounded. A Syrian bomber was stopped before he could detonate his car bomb in Khadraa. Yesterday, a sticky bomb planted on a car in Nidaa wounded one civilian, while two more people were wounded in a separate blast in Doura.
A bomb left at a funeral in Sadr City killed nine people and wounded 33 others.
In the holy city of Karbala, three cooking gas cylinders exploded as an Ashura procession passed by, wounding 21 Iraqis and one Iranian pilgrim. An I.E.D. may have triggered the blasts. Bombs near the Rafiaa area were defused.
North of Karbala near Husseiniya, a bomb at a restaurant in al-Atieshi village wounded nine more people.
Early this week, two Shi’ites were killed in Baquba. They had just performed the Ashura flagellation rite at a mosque, but whether they were targeted for their beliefs is unknown.
In Mosul, gunmen killed a Christian bus driver and wounded a bystander. No casualties were reported after a bomb targeting the mayor’s motorcade. Another civilian was also shot dead.
In Kirkuk, two Sahwa fighters were killed and three more were wounded at their checkpoint. Gunmen killed a civilian and shot dead an electrical worker in separate incidents. Mass was canceled at a Chaldean church.
A Kurdish political candidate’s father was slain in Jalawla.
A journalist has gone missing in the Arbil area. Journalism is a dangerous profession in Iraq where both gunmen and politicians kill and harass them.
Police in Anbar province found a map listing supposed targets.