Counter-Terrorism: The Next Round in Iraq


February 6, 2006: In Iraq, there are some parts of the year when you just know there will be more Sunni Arab terrorism. One such period is Ashura, the annual observances commemorating the death of the Third Imam. This is one of the holiest occasions in Shia Islam, begins on February 9th, and runs for 40 days. The high point of the observances is a procession from Najaf to Karbala, in which up to two million people may take part.

In 2004 and 2005 the Sunni Arab terrorists made a number of attacks on the pilgrims, particularly on the eve of the first day. Building on the experience of 2004, Iraqi military and police forces did a very good job of providing security for the festival in 2005. Not only were there fewer attacks, but they tended to be against pilgrims who were traveling to Najaf prior to the final pilgrimage, and were thus particularly "soft targets." Reportedly, security preparations are going to be even more elaborate this year, with over 16,000 soldiers and police being used..


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