Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thousands of Shias conduct pilgrimage

Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — A shrine in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya neighborhood, named after the seventh Shia Imam, Musa al-Kazim, is the focal point of a pilgrimage from Aug. 7 -10.
A large shrine built over his tomb and the tomb of his grandson, ninth Shia Imam Muhammad at-Taqi, immediately beside him, is now a shrine called the Kazimain.
Troops of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., conducted patrols along the highway south of Baghdad that Coalition Forces dubbed “Route Jackson,” the route most of the pilgrims have been taking to the northern Baghdad neighborhood. Troops say there have been no incidents.
“So far, it’s been just the way we want it,” said 2-15th FAR Command Sgt. Maj. Tony Grinston, of Jasper, Ala.
Executive officer Maj. Doug Mayzel concurred. “It’s quiet and there have been no incidents – that’s a good thing.”
Mayzel said the battalion had expected far more pilgrims than have actually passed through their area of operations. Only about 10,000 people have traveled through the 2nd BCT’s sector between Lutifiyah and Rasheed.
Nonetheless, he said, the Soldiers of 2-15th FAR and the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, continue to stand watch, just in case.
“Between the Iraqi army, the Iraqi police and Coalition Forces, we continue to man checkpoints and secure routes. We have joint manning of the checkpoints and joint patrols, as well as a quick-reaction force in Mahmudiyah at the Iraqi Army Compound,” Mayzel said.
All in all, Mayzel said, there are about 50 U.S. Soldiers providing security for the pilgrims along Route Jackson.
During last year’s pilgrimage, several of the faithful were shot by snipers as they walked along the road into Kadhimiya. Also, on Aug. 31, 2005, a stampede on a bridge leading into Kadhimiyah killed more than 800 Shia pilgrims when the crowd panicked after shouts that there was a suicide bomber among the worshippers.
Shia Muslims make the pilgrimage to the Kazimain each year to commemorate the suffering of al-Kazim’s death by poisoning.

No comments: