Attacks kill 17 as pilgrims converge on Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Violence in Baghdad and north Iraq killed 17 people on Friday as throngs of Shia pilgrims converged on the Iraqi capital for annual commemoration rituals amid heavy security. The unrest comes as Iraq grapples with a protracted surge in bloodshed that has left more than 3,700 people dead so far this year and fuelled fears the country is slipping back into all-out conflict.
Friday’s deadly violence struck in the capital and the restive northern province of Nineveh, leaving 17 people dead and 25 others wounded, security and medical officials said.
Mortar fire in north Baghdad killed three people, while two men were shot dead in the west of the capital. The mortar rounds slammed into the Zahra neighbourhood adjacent to Kadhimiyah, where tens of thousands of Shia Muslims prepare to commemorate the death of a revered figure in Shia Islam.
For days worshippers from across the country have been walking to Kadhimiyah, site of a shrine dedicated to Imam Musa Kadhim, the seventh of 12 revered imams in Shia Islam, who died in 799 AD. The commemoration rituals climax on Saturday and Sunday. Shia pilgrims are often targeted by Sunni militants who regard them as apostates. In past years, multiple attacks have been carried out during the Imam Kadhim commemorations. Due to the heightened threat of attack, the authorities have imposed heavy security measures on the capital, involving the closure of entire roads and barring certain vehicles from the streets. In Nineveh province, north of the capital, four more people were killed on Friday, including two senior police officers, officials said, while attacks elsewhere north of Baghdad killed eight others. 

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