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In Iraq, a Day of Religious Observance, and of Blood

Posted by on November 14, 2013

BAGHDAD — A wave of attacks against Shiite Muslims in Iraq killed at least 47 people and wounded dozens on Thursday, security officials said, as they were marking the holy day of Ashura, which commemorates the killing of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, 1,300 years ago.

In the worst violence, 35 people were killed and 75 wounded in Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at an arena where a crowd had gathered to watch a play about the death of Imam Hussein. Women, children and actors in the play were among the dead.

One witness, Mohammed Saadoun, 40, said the explosion took place at the end of the death scene. “I saw those who were acting out the death had died in reality,” he said in an interview. “They were on the ground covered with blood.”

He added, “We have no trust in the government or the security forces to protect our lives from terrorism.”

The governor of Diyala Province, Omar Humairi, said in a statement that Diyala would publicly mourn the victims for three days, and called the attack an “evil scheme to hit the national unity.”

Ashura has become an almost annual day of violence and sectarian attacks in Iraq. Dozens of Iraqis were killed in attacks on the holy day in 2007up to 39 in 2005, and at least 23 in 2011.

In Kut Province, southeast of Baghdad, two roadside bombs exploded near a tent set up to serve pilgrims heading toward Karbala, the site of a shrine to Imam Hussein. Ten people were killed and more than 25 wounded.

Haider Fadhel, 25, said by telephone from a hospital where he was attending his injured brother: “We were preparing the breakfast when a bomb exploded behind the tents. Everyone was running. I saw my brother injured and lying on the ground.

“We didn’t think that we would be a target,” he continued. “All we do is feed people and provide water for them. Is this enough reason to kill us?”

In the city of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, a bomb planted on the side of a road exploded, and as people rushed in to help the injured, a second bomb exploded nearby, killing two and wounding eight.

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