In an effort to re-ignite sectarian violence and halt the progress made in Iraq, terrorists have executed a series of attacks in Kirkuk, Baghdad, Baquba, Diyala, and Tikrit that have killed over 130 people and wounded hundreds more. The attacks against Shi’a pilgrims in Karbala, which killed and injured dozens, were especially reprehensible as they targeted innocent people practicing their faith.
Hundreds of thousands of people made the pilgrimage to Karbala this year, marking the Shi'ite holy day of Arbain. The term means 40 in Arabic, and celebrates the end of a 40-day mourning period for Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammad and a central figure of Shi'ite Islam, who died in the Battle of Karbala in the year 680.
The annual pilgrimage draws Shi'ite Muslims from all over Iraq, as well as from communities in neighboring countries.
Under Saddam Hussein, Shi’a religious celebrations such as Arbain were banned, providing even more significance for devout Muslims who are now free to practice this religious rite. Since 2003, pilgrims have been regularly targeted for attack by terrorists but they continue to stand together in the face of this senseless aggression along with the overwhelming majority of Iraqis from all communities who reject violence.
"The United States strongly condemns the recent attacks in Anbar, Diyala, and Karbala which targeted police recruits, pilgrims and innocent civilians, and offers condolences to the families of the victims of these terrorist attacks. No cause or grievance justifies the murder of innocent people," said State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley.
"We stand in solidarity with the people of Iraq in rejecting extremist efforts to foment sectarian tensions and undermine the institutions of Iraqi democracy. They cannot and must not prevail. The United States remains deeply committed to assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in countering this threat. This commitment to Iraq and its people will not waiver."