Iraqi forces foil suspected ISIS attack on Shia pilgrims south of Baghdad

“A terrorist cell belonging to ISIS was planning to target the visitors of the upcoming Arbaeen rituals.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism units said on Tuesday that it had foiled a suspected Islamic State attack on Shia pilgrims south of Baghdad.

The incident comes as millions of Shia Muslims prepare to go to the city of Karbala to perform the Arbaeen rituals, which mark the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein.

In a statement on its official Facebook page, the Counter-Terrorism units said its forces had carried out “an inspection in one of the agricultural areas south of Baghdad.”

During the operation, 20 bags of explosive material (TNT), weighing 750 kilograms, were found, the statement added.

“A terrorist cell belonging to the ISIS terrorist organization was planning to target the visitors of the upcoming Arbaeen rituals.”

At least three million people are expected to make their way to Karbala during the Arbaeen ceremony, which begins on Oct. 19.

The so-called Islamic State has often carried out attacks against Shias, most recently claiming a deadly minibus bombing in Iraq’s Karbala.

Read More: ISIS claims deadly minibus attack in Iraq’s Karbala

The assault was one of the largest the Islamic State has claimed since its military defeat in Iraq in 2017.

Despite the former Iraqi government declaring a “final victory” against the terror group over two years ago, the Islamic State continues to pose a threat through its sleeper cells which still launch sporadic attacks in previously liberated areas and region’s it never controlled.