By Mark McMurray
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BAGHDAD, Iraq — On Tuesday, a bomb killed at least two people who were part of a Shia pilgrimage in honor of a revered imam. The attack in the capital follows an attack earlier in the week which killed pilgrims making the annual trip.
The bomb attack hit pilgrims in the neighborhood of Saydiyah in Baghdad as they marched to a shrine built to commemorate the death of Imam Moussa ibn Jaafar al-Kadhim. With the barrage of attacks leading up to the event’s climax on Saturday, there are fears of increasing tensions between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The two groups have been in a deadlock, predominantly along sectarian lines, in Iraq’s coalition government.
Tuesday’s attack occurred after security was increased for devotees after a similar attack on Sunday killed seven pilgrims and wounded thirty-eight others. On Sunday, two mortar rounds struck a square filled with Shia pilgrims in Baghdad’s northwestern Kadhimiya district, where they were gathering ahead of the religious festival. In a bid to prevent further violence, security forces have been on high alert, tightening security around the al-Kadhim shrine. The increased security for the event includes a vehicle ban and a search of anyone entering the area.
The annual pilgrimage marks the eighth century death of al-Kadhim, one of the twelve main Shia saints, who is said to be buried at the shrine. In recent times, the al-Kadhim procession has been struck by tragedy. In 2005, some one thousand pilgrims died following a stampede on a bridge caused by rumors of a suicide bomber. Poor crowd control and the fear of attacks prevalent in Iraq were blamed as no explosives were found on the Bridge of the Imams, which leads to the golden-domed shrine.
U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, who monitors online communication amount insurgents, said an Al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) group, claimed responsibility for the mortar attacks on Sunday. The ISI group has also claimed responsibility for thirty-nine other attacks between March 24 and May 21. These Sunni Islamist fighters with al-Qaeda links seek to create the kind of sectarian pressure that almost led to a civil war in the country in 2006.
The attacks come a week after a failed attempt to oust Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from office. Last Monday, the country’s president refused to ratify a petition for a vote of no-confidence in parliament. This refusal has been seen as further proof of the political impasse present in the power sharing agreement between the majority Shias and minority Sunnis and Kurds. With the pull-out of U.S. troops in December, this impasse has sparked a fear of unchecked, renewed violence occurring between the groups.
For further information, please see:
Washington Post – Bomb Targeting Shiite Pilgrims in Iraqi Capital Kills 2, Wounds 12, in Second Attack in Days – 12 June 2012
Fox News – Iraq Pilgrimage Security Tight After Mortar Attack – 11 June 2012
Pakistan News Tribune – Mortar Attack Kills 6, Wounds 38 in Iraq – 11 June 2012
Al-Jazeera – Iraq Mortar Attacks Kill Shia Pilgrims – 10 June 2012