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  Updated: July 16, 2009

Despite hot weather mlns of Imam Kadhim (A) mourners reaching his shrine

By: Ismail Zabeeh

AL-KADHIMIYA, Iraq: Despite the scorching summer and the sand storms that occasionally hit Baghdad, hundreds of thousands of devotees of Ahlul Bayt (AS) were walking Thursday towards the Kadhimiya district of Baghdad carrying black, red and green flags.

Women, men and children are heading to the holy shrine of Al-Imam Mussa bin Jafer al-Kadhim (AS), the seventh infallible descendant of Prophet Muhammad (S) from all over the country amid high security measures, in order to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of the imam which is marked on Rajab 25 that falls this year on July 18 Saturday.

Aboud Kanbar, commander of operations in Baghdad, said: "all the ministries are now in a state of alert, and we had several meetings over the past two weeks to ensure the visit would end in peace."

"The Iraqi forces will work to protect the visitors until the end of the visit," he added.

Besides setting up checkpoints, Iraqi authorities have deployed thousands of military and police officers in Baghdad, both fixed and mobile patrols, and above the high buildings, particularly in the al-Kadhimiya district in anticipation of any emergency.

Many roads were closed in a bid to avoid violence. The government also banned motorcycles and wheeled carts until Sunday. Crowds are expected to peak on Friday and Saturday.

Yet, there is still some risk, as a bomb exploded early on Thursday targeting pilgrims who arrived near the shrine leaving 18 people injured.

In 2005, pilgrims stampeded on a bridge when they thought there was a suicide bomber amongst them, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths and 400 injured.

"Security preparations and services are good so far, and we asked the visitors to collaborate with the security forces, hoping that preparations would be deployed across Baghdad the mourning ends without any losses or any breach of security as it was in the past," said Hazim al-Aragi, the imam who gives the speech of the Friday prayers at al-Rawda mosque in al-Kadhimiya.

Observing Shiite events have become normal since the US-led invasion in 2003 and the fall of Saddam. They were forbidden during his regime, which repressed public display of worship rituals by Iraq's Shiite majority.

Now, Iraqis go to Karbala, Najaf, Samarra and al-Kadhimiya every year to revive the sacred religious events, accompanied by many coming from outside the country.          

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