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IRAQ: Shiite pilgrims head to shrine in Baghdad

January 6, 2009 |  8:09 am

Ashor_3

Thousands of Shiite Muslim pilgrims from around the country continued making their way to Baghdad's Kadhimiya neighborhood today, undeterred by a suicide bomber who killed at least 38 people and wounded 72 others.

Female worshipers, though, were greeted with bad news. Iraqi authorities, fearing a female suicide bomber might slip through undetected, refused to grant them access to the shrine of Musa al Kadhim, considered the seventh imam of the Shiite sect.

Initial reports suggested that the suicide bomber in Sunday's incident was a woman, though it was later determined to be a man.

Hadeel, a 20-year-old who lives in Kadhimiya, said she still planned to try to visit on Wednesday to mark Ashura, Shiite Islam's most significant religious holiday. Ashura is the 10th day of the first month of the Islamic calendar and occurs on the anniversary of the battlefield death in 680 of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad. 

"Last year we were able to go and the year before also," she said. "Why did they choose this year? Because one woman wore an explosives vest? And all women have to pay the price? They should just search the women and let us go in.... We will go even if they prevent us from going. We will walk as close as we can get to the shrine."

Most Iraqis have become accustomed to such inconvenience. Umm Fuaad, 48, said she would adjust her schedule and visit the shrine a few days after Ashura.

"It's a wise concept to secure the area and preserve people's life," Fuaad said. "Some women who carry children pass through the checkpoints without being searched because the guards feel compassionate toward them and  don't want to cause them any trouble. As a result, women pass through unsearched and some of those women could wear an explosives belt."

-- Kimi Yoshino in Baghdad

Photo: Shiite Muslims begin preparing their Ashura feast, which usually includes qeema, an Iraqi stew of lentils and minced meat. Credit: Saad Khalaf / Los Angeles Times

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