Iraq attacks kill 44; millions mark Ashura

KARBALA: Suicide attacks against Shia pilgrims, headed to the holy city of Karbala to mark Ashura, killed 44 people.

The bloodshed came as a flood of devotees, including tens of thousands of foreign pilgrims, thronged the central shrine city of Karbala for the climax of Ashura.

The suicide bomber, disguised in police uniform, struck in a Shia-majority area of Diyala province, north of Baghdad, killing 32 people and wounding 80, security and medical officials said.

It was the third attack of the day targeting pilgrims.

Earlier, coordinated blasts in Hafriyah south of the capital killed nine people, while twin bombings in the northern oil city of Kirkuk wounded five.

Violence near Baghdad and in Diyala’s provincial capital Baquba left three others dead.

Shias from Iraq and around the world mark Ashura, which this year climaxed yesterday, by setting up procession tents where pilgrims gather and food is distributed to passers-by.

An estimated two million faithful gathered in Karbala, site of the mausoleum of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), whose martyrdom in the city at the hands of soldiers of the Umayad caliph Yazid in 680 AD is remembered every year.

The venerated imam was decapitated and his body mutilated along with 71 of his kin and companions by the Umayad army. Womenfolk were chained and paraded to the court of Yazeed in Damascus hundreds of kilometers away.

Emotionally charged black-clad pilgrims packed the shrines of Imam Hussein and his brother and commander Abol Fazl Abbas, chanting ‘Labaik Ya Hussain’ or O’ Hussain We Have Come.

Saddam Hussein, like majority of Arab rulers, barred the Ashura commemorations, until his overthrow in 2003.

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