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Considerations surrounding Imam Kadhim Pilgrimage in Baghdad

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Various announcements pertaining to transit and security associated with the Imam Kadhim Pilgrimage gradually developed. The death of the 7th Imam remains a central point of tension between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, with Shi’a believers holding the Sunni Caliph Haroun Rashid responsible for Imam Khadim’s death by poisoning in 799 AD. In contrast, Sunnis believe the rift to have been caused when Shi’a usurpers attempted to overthrow the existing caliphate of the time. Millions of individuals, including many travelling on foot, are expected to visit the Kadhimiyah Mosque in north Baghdad leading up to the mainstay of commemorations, which is currently scheduled to occur on 1 April, while an official holiday will be witnessed on 2 April.

Previous years have witnessed route disruptions along major approaches to the capital and in the vicinity of the shrine in Khadhimiyah, with vehicular traffic limited to one lane in some areas in order to accommodate increased foot traffic. The most significant route restrictions are likely to be witnessed in areas connecting Kadhimiyah and Adhamiyah, including multiple bridges and arterial routes. Traffic leading to the capital, particularly from the Southern Region, will be significantly congested as hundreds and thousands of pilgrims transit by foot and vehicle.

The threat of IS asymmetric attacks remains an enduring concern during significant Shi’a religious ceremonies. Equally, the aftermath of the ceremony is expected to remain just as dangerous as IS seeks to exploit lax security postures across the city. That being said, IS has unable to conduct a mass casualty attack in the capital since 24 May 2018, when an IS militant detonated an explosive vest in the Shu’ala area of Kadhimiyah, north Baghdad.

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