Dozens of Shiite Iraqis were killed and wounded in a series of attacks on January 5, 2012 in Baghdad and southern Iraq, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. The attacks come as the country starts preparing for one of the most important occasions in the Shiite religion, and within a worsening political climate throughout the country.

Tension between the Shiite and Sunnis were heightened after a Sunni political bloc continued to boycott the coalition government, which is led by the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The bloodiest incident occurred near the city of Nasiriya, which involved a suicide bomber who blew up the the procession of Shiite pilgrims. At least 36 people were killed, and 76 were injured.

The attacks came as the Shiite majority was preparing to observe Arbayeen. The holiday marks the ending of the mourning period for the martyrdom in 680 AD of Shiite Imam Hussein. He and his companions were killed during a battle against rival Muslims in the city of Karbala. The attack was a defining moment in the split between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

Shiites typically march on foot during Imam Hussein’s mausoleum in the holy city to observe the holiday. Attacks against the pilgrimage have occurred in the past, prompting the government to mobilize thousands of soldiers and police.

The latest attack comes after the Sunni political bloc Iraqiya has extended its boycott of Parliament and the coalition government led by al-Maliki. Iraqi leaders have yet to agree on the meeting place and agenda for a national conference to stabilize the government, as urged by U.S. leaders.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Iraqi Shiites

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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