20 Shi’ite pilgrims, after making their annual pilgrimage on foot, gathered around the Husayn Mosque, alongside millions of other Shi'ite pilgrims from around the world, during Arba’een, a Shi’ite Muslim religious observation that commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
After memorializing the death of Husayn, and the 71 supporters who died in the Battle of Karbala, the 20 Shi’ite pilgrims journeyed with many others to a bus station, located in the Iraqi town of Mussayab. With mournful hearts, they patiently waited to be transported back to Baghdad and the northern provinces.
Then suddenly, a suicidal bomber driving a car wired with explosives drove into the crowded bus station.
"I was getting a sandwich when a very strong explosion rocked the place and the blast threw me away,” said Ali Sabbar, a pilgrim who survived the explosion. “When I regained my senses and stood up, I saw dozens of bodies. “Many cars were set on fire. I just left the place and didn't even participate in the evacuation of the victims."
Since the ousting of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, militants have targeted pilgrims during Arba’een, and to counter-attack the terrorists acts, the Iraqi authorities have aerial surveillance watching over the pilgrims, and 35,000 soldiers and policemen positioned in Karbala.
But with all the security and armed checkpoints in place, the Iraqi authorities know it will be hard to prevent suicide car bombing attacks because suicide car bombers are extremely difficult to defend against.