Dozens of mourners were injured in an attack targeting Shia pilgrims flocking to shrine Imam Moosa al-Kadhim (PBUH) in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, a police officer said Monday.
“An unidentified person threw a grenade at a group of visitors who were on foot to the Al-Kadhimiya area in Baghdad to commemorate the death of Imam Musa Al-Kadhim,” a police captain told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to media outlets.
The attack comes hours after the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced in a statement that it thwarted suicide attacks targeting Shia pilgrims.
The Iraqi news website Al-Ma’aloumah says the explosion struck the path used by Shia pilgrims to visit the holy shrine of their seventh imam, Musa al-Kadhim (PBUH), whose martyrdom anniversary falls on March 9 this year, in al-Kadhimiya region.
Iraq’s intelligence agency said it had arrested three members of a terror cell earlier in the day who were planning a suicide attack on pilgrims of Imam al-Kadhim.
Baghdad’s Operation Command said the pilgrims will continue their annual march to the mosque.
A few hours after the incident, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi also visited the scene of the explosion.
The Monday explosion came the same day Pope Francis left Baghdad after a historic three-day visit to Iraq.
On every 25th of Rajab of the Islamic calendar, tens of thousands of Shia pilgrims mark the martyrdom anniversary of their seventh Imam, Moosa al-Kadhim (PBUH).
On Wednesday, the number of Shia arrivals to Al-Kadhimiya is expected to reach a peak amid tight security measures imposed by joint forces from the army and police.
The rituals include walking from different areas of Baghdad and some nearby provinces toward the Al-Kadhimiya area in northern Baghdad, where the shrine of Imam Al-Kadhim is located.
In June 2014, Daesh/ISIS captured Mosul, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces and parts of Diyala and Kirkuk, which have been recaptured from the group in late 2017 by the Iraqi army with support from a US-led coalition.
The Iraqi army continues to carry out frequent operations against Daesh/ISIS in these parts where the terror group recently mobilized its sleeper cells in rural areas.
Source: Iraq, Iran and Turkish News agencies