It is a prospect Iraq’s Shi’ites had been dreading – bloodshed during one of the most important events in the religious calendar.
Two suicide bombings have struck Shi’ite mosques in Baghdad.
At least 17 people died in the first blast, and more than 25 were wounded.
Witnesses say a man wearing a belt laden with explosives merged with the crowd at the mosque in the Doura district of southern Baghdad.
The second attack, in the west of the capital, was initially blamed on a mortar strike but police later confirmed it was also a suicide bombing.
At least three people died and more than 15 were injured.
The government believes the militant group of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was behind the bombings.
They come as Shi’ites around the country celebrate the festival of Ashura, and a day after a Shi’ite alliance was confirmed as the winner of last month’s historic election. Meanwhile two Indonesians have become the latest foreign journalists to disappear in Iraq.
They are thought to have been kidnapped near the restive city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.