Security tightened as thousands make annual pilgrimage to Iraq

BAGHDAD — Thousands of pilgrims dressed in black made their way on foot to a gold-domed shrine in northwest Baghdad on Saturday, part of a week-long procession to commemorate the death of a revered figure of Shia Islam.

Most of the streets in the Iraqi capital have been closed due to the large number of pilgrims descending on Baghdad mainly from the southern and central provinces. Tents have been set up along the road leading to the shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, who died at the end of the 8th century.

A large number of Iraqi security forces have been deployed to protect the annual pilgrimage, which is expected to culminate on Sunday morning. The event attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world to Baghdad every year. Very few pilgrims wore masks.

Vehicles have been banned in the predominantly Shia area of ​​Kadhimya, where the shrine is located. The religious holiday marks the 8th century anniversary of the death of Moussa al-Kadhim, the seventh of the 12 Shia imams.

The march comes amid Iraqi frustration over political leaders who have failed to form a government, more than four months after Iraqis voted in the general election. Political disputes between Iraq’s main Kurdish and Shia political parties have hampered the government formation process.

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