There have been celebrations in Iraq as the annual pilgrimage to the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala ended with no repeat of the violence that had marred it in previous years. There were, however, several bomb attacks on pilgrims heading to Karbala in the past few days that killed more than 30 people.
Three million Shi’ites attended the rites, held over three days, to mark one of the holiest events in Shi’ite Islam, the birth of Imam al-Mehdi.
Security in and around the central Iraqi city was provided by 40,000 soldiers and police, including 2,000 female officers who searched women pilgrims. Suicide attacks by women, who can conceal explosives in their voluminous black robes, have become more common recently in Iraq.
At least 50 people died in factional fighting last year in Karbala. Bombs and panic stampedes from rumours of suicide bombers killed 1,200 people in the previous two years.