Iraq: Arbaeen Attacks Leave 71 Killed, 145 Wounded

Today is Arbaeen, which marks the end of the 40-day mourning period observed by Shi’ite pilgrims in honor of Hussein bin Ali, the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson. As expected, insurgents staged a major bombing against pilgrims. It alone left about 200 casualties. Overall, at least 71 people were killed and 145 more wounded. It is unknown if any foreigners were among the casualties.

In Zubayr, a suicide bomber dressed in a military uniform set off his vest amidst a group of pilgrims, killing 64 and wounding 137 more. Many were women and children.

The pilgrims were participating in a procession to the Imam Ali shrine on the outskirts of this predominantly Sunni town tucked inside a Shi’ite province. The shrine is used as an alternate by many pilgrims who cannot walk the entire distance to Karbala as some 15 million others have done in the last few weeks. Acting Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi called the attack a "normal breach."

Although major hits are rare for Basra province, where authorities have long kept a lid on news reports of any activity, last November the city itself saw two significant attacks. Those resulted in the firing of several police officials, including the chief of Basra Operations Command. The new head took over only four days ago.

In Bartilla, three policemen were killed and four civilians were wounded in another attack against pilgrims.

A roadside bomb targeting soldiers killed three of them in Tal Afar.

A car bomb in Tikrit killed one policeman and wounded another.

Three policemen were wounded during clashes in Mosul.

A blast targeting pilgrims at a Mussayab train station left no casualties.

Arrest warrants have been issued for five Iraqiya members from Diyala province. Other members fear they are next on the list. The current political crisis was set off last month when Diyala voted to initiate a self-autonomy bid. An enraged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he would prevent such bids and began a campaign of harassment against his Sunni rivals.

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Author: Margaret Griffis

Margaret Griffis is a journalist from Miami Beach, Florida and has been covering Iraqi casualties for Antiwar.com since 2006.