40 Dead, 80 Wounded in Deadly Bombing of Pilgrims to Karbala

A female suicide bomber detonated her payload in Musayyib on Friday in a tent of pilgrims taking a rest from their walk to the holy city of Karbala, killing 40 persons and wounding 80. The pilgrims were heading to the tomb of Imam Husayn, the martyred grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in honor of the 40th day after the commemoration of his death. (In many Muslim countries it is common to commemorate the death of a loved one not only at his or her funeral but again 40 days later, and this practice has been mapped on to sacred history and ritual).

Al-Hayat writing in Arabic reports that the attacks raised concerns about a return of the ethno-sectarian violence that plunged Iraq into turmoil and left tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands dead. Al-Hayat says that the timing is expecially bad because it has just been announced by a former officer in the Republican Guards that 23,000 former officers and NCOs will be allowed to rejoin the Iraqi military (many of them will have been Sunni, so anything that worsens Sunni-Shiite relations could derail this move toward reconciliation.

Al-Hayat says that both Sunni and Shiite clergy in their Friday prayer sermons condemned the bombing and called for a cautious repsonse.

Meanwhile, Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr indicated Friday that his faction might return to an alliance with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of the Da`wa (Islamic Mission) Party.

Me, I don’t think these bombings actually are likely to bring back sectarian fighting. Most of it was over control of Baghdad, and the Shiites won that struggle decisively. And when there is not a pilgrimage going on, southern police can police the area better.

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