Karbala (IraqiNews.com) The Iraqi army said late Sunday it had killed 21 suicide attackers from the Islamic State near the holy city of Karbala where Shia pilgrims marked a major, annual religious festival.
The militants were killed in an air and ground operation on the borders between Anbar province and the holy city of Karbala, where millions of Shia Muslims marked Ashura, the anniversary of the death of Imam al-Hussein, the grandson of Islam’s Prophet Mohamed.
The announcement was made in a press conference by Maj. Gen. Qais al-Mohammadawi, head of the Defense Ministry’s Central Euphrates Operations.
The “preemptive” operation was carried out by government forces backed by the Popular Mobilization, according to the military official.
Mohammadawi added that more than six million visitors, including 400.000 foreigners, converged on the holy city for the celebration.
Shia religious festivals have always been a target for suicide bombings since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The country is currently fighting the Sunni militant group out of its last havens in Anbar and Kirkuk provinces. Iraqi, U.S.-backed military offensives since 2016 have, so far, recaptured the group’s former capital, Mosul, the town of Tal Afar and the Salahuddin town of Shirqat.