Hundreds of Thousands of Shiite pilgrims headed on foot to a north Baghdad holy shrine on Thursday to commemorate the martyrdom of a revered Shiite Imam Hazrat Musa Kadhim (as), undaunted by waves of attacks that martyred 72 people a day earlier.
Routes leading to Kadhimiyah (Kazmain) neighborhood, site of the holy shrine of Imam Musa Kadhim, the seventh of 12 Shiite imams who martyred in 799, were closed to all traffic except emergency vehicles, AFP journalists said.
Shiite Pilgrims wound under a blistering sun through the streets in their thousands, repeating religious chants, some beating their chests in a sign of mourning for the imam.
Tents along the way provided the pilgrims with free food and water.
In the Utayfiyah area of north Baghdad, long lines of pilgrims and mourners, many wearing green headbands and some carrying green flags, the color of Islam, were seen marching toward the shrine.
Vast crowds of chanting pilgrims were also seen walking through Karrada in central Baghdad, where a bomb on Wednesday blasted the pilgrims’ food tents, killing 16 people, damaging cars and scattering human remains across the street.
Another car bomb exploded on the outskirts of Kadhimiyah on Wednesday, killing seven people, leaving a hole two meters (yards) deep in a street, damaging cars and destroying a number of makeshift houses.
“This is the sixth year I have come ... I left home around 2:00 am and I feel so good now,” said Hussein Murawih, 17, who walked from Suwayrah, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Baghdad.
“We just came to tell the terrorists that we are against you. We are not afraid of the explosions or of terrorism. Visiting Imam Musa Kadhim (as) Shrine is a great thing because we want to express condolences to the holy Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) on the martyrdom of his grandson Imam Musa Khadim (as).”
Another pilgrim also brushed off Wednesday’s killings.
“The explosions mean nothing for us. It is not something new. Even if 20 car bombs exploded every day, does that mean we will stop walking to the holy Shrine of Imam Khadim (as) ? No,” said Salam Jaber, 27.
“I have been walking for five days,” said Jaber, who came from the town of Muwafaqiyah, some 180 kilometers (111 miles) southeast of Baghdad.
Coordinated attacks took place right across Iraq on Wednesday, leaving a total of 72 people martyred and more than 250 wounded, majority of them were pilgrims, and marking the deadliest day in the country in almost 10 months.
Shiite pilgrimages were prohibited under the rule of Wahabi Saddam Hussein, who was executed in 2006 after being overthrown by a U.S.-led invasion
Along with the security forces, the Shiite majority in Iraq has been a main target of America and Saudi funded Wahabi's armed groups since the 2003 fall of Saddam’s Sunni-dominated regime.
Violence across Iraq has declined dramatically since the 2006-2007 peak but attacks remain common, especially in Baghdad. A total of 132 Iraqis were killed in May, official figures show.