The 21st Century Phenomenon


A suicide attack has killed at least 53 Shiaa Muslim pilgrims and left another 137 wounded in Iraq’s southern city of Basra, local police said on Saturday 01/14/2012.

The attacker, wearing a suicide vest, was said to have been disguised as a policeman when he targeted pilgrims who were passing through a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city on Saturday. The pilgrims were heading towards a Shia Mosque in the busy al-Zubair district, west of Basra city. The Mosque is home to a seventh century shrine.

The attacks on Shiaa Muslim worshippers have been blamed on Al Qaeda linked forces but also on the political rift between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq (see also – Basra 01.14.11).

Iraqi security forces have “been on high alert for attacks of this kind” surrounding the Arbaeen rituals, commemorating the death of Imam al-Hussayn.

The attack is the lastest in a string of bombs and suicide attacks targeting Shiaa pilgrims on their way to Karbala for Arbaeen rituals, a religious rite that occurs 40 days after the day of Ashura. The Arbaeen pilgrimage, one of the largest in the world, has drawn 12 million congregants to Karbala itself (see also – Baghdad 01.05.12).

With the pilgrimage becoming a major focus of attacks some pilgrims “wrap themselves in white shrouds” – the traditional burial attire for Muslims – along the way. Iraqi security forces have stationed 30,000 police and soldiers outside Karbala city and along the roads leading to it.

Iraq has experienced political tension along ethnic and sectarian lines after the Shia-dominated cabinet of Nuri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant last month for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, the country’s highest-ranking Sunni politician. Hashemi, who is currently living in Iraq’s Kurdish north, was charged with terrorism as the final USA troops were leaving the nation (see – IRAQI CONCERN).

Basra was also the site a protest last week to denounce a decision by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to shelter Hashemi.


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