BAGHDAD, Iraq: Holy Kadhimiyah is in profound grief and
mourning as the commemoration of the martyrdom anniversary of Al-Imam
Mussa Al-Kadhim (AS), the seventh infallible descendant of prophet
Muhammad (S), was in climax on Saturday July 18, Rajab 25.
Iraqi security officials said they expected record numbers of Shi'ite
Muslims, up to 6 million, to visit the Imam Mussa al-Kadhim shrine in
A sea of people, mostly dressed in black, thronged roads
leading to the golden domed shrine throughout Friday to observe the
During the pilgrimage, the crowds carry a coffin to show their
devotion to the imam.
"We are here today because Imam Kadhim said, 'God bless those who
resuscitate our cause,' " said Chasib Kadhim , 45, as he was giving
water to pilgrims.
This is the first major security challenge for Iraqi
military forces since U.S. combat troops withdrew from Iraq's cities
"This is the first 100 percent Iraqi security plan. The forces are
Iraqi, even the helicopters," said Baghdad security spokesman
Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi.
Despite intensive security, some bombers made it through.
The Kadhimiya site has been surrounded by three rings of security
personnel to search each pilgrim, and helicopters patrol overhead.
Cameras on air balloons monitored the site, the surveillance provided
by the U.S. military at Iraq's request.
"I haven't joined the pilgrimage for a while because I was afraid.
This is the first time," said pilgrim Ali Hussein.
"This pilgrimage is unprecedented. All the roads are open
... The number expected is higher than in previous years," said
Baghdad security commander Major-General in Staff Abboud Qanbar.
"Nothing will prevent us visiting Kadhimiya. We used to come in the
days of slaughter, and now you can see the security there's no excuse
not to come," said pilgrim Adnan Mohammed.
Authorities have imposed a limited curfew in Baghdad; Around 100,000
policemen were put on alert throughout the capital to try to prevent
attacks against pilgrims.
A brigade from the Iraqi Federal Police — previously known as the
Iraqi National Police — set up checkpoints at which men, women and
children were searched Thursday, and Iraqi army helicopters flew low
over the crowds.
Two American helicopters also hovered overhead; in the
past, Iraqis had asked that only U.S. helicopters protect their
"The significance of this pilgrimage is to reject oppression, reject
tyranny and to show the oppression that occurred against the family of
the Prophet," Sheik Fadhil al Daraji said as he walked among the
pilgrims "It also helps the society to unite. As you can see, Sunnis
and Shiites alike help the pilgrims."
A pilgrim can eat and drink for free all the way to the shrine, and
some have come hundreds of miles.
Residents and different mawakeb pitch tents to provide rest for the
pilgrims, and cook for them on the sides of the road. The Ministry of
Health has moved ambulances to areas where pilgrims might need them.
The Red Crescent, the Islamic world's equivalent to the Red Cross, has
deployed hundreds of volunteers at 18 stations on the road to
Kadhimiyah to serve the pilgrims and offer resting places and first