The special operations regiment serving within the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) has been deployed to the surrounding areas of Daquq, south of Kirkuk to undertake security responsibilities near Zain al-Abidin village, home to the shrine of Zain al-Abidin, one of the Shiite sect’s religious symbols.
The move coincides with the start of the Muharram ritual ceremonies, including the Ashura mourning processions, as followers of the sect prepare to visit the holy site.
“This regiment was tasked with the protection of the Kirkuk airport, but due to the deterioration of the security situation in Daquq and after the recent attack which targeted Zain al-Abidin village, the regiment was dispatched to the area near the village,” said Hussein Darwish, commander of the PMF’s 16th brigade.
Daquq has witnessed a surge in attacks blamed on remnants of the Islamic State (IS) group. ON August 24, a mortar attack targeted a soccer field near the shrine of Zain al-Abidin left 7 people dead and 10 others injured.
The PMF commander said Daquq district “needs more troops, particularly in this month, as crowds of Shiite pilgrims converge on the Zain al-Abidin holy shrine.”
Zain al-Abidin is son of Hussein Bin Ali, an important figure in Islam. He was born in Medina in the year 658 and died at the age of 57.
On the days of Muharram, Shiites across the world express their mourning in various ways.
They gather at mosques and shrines, or in processions for ceremonial mourning that involves the ritualistic "matam" or beating of their chests to reflect the grief over the violent deaths of Hussein Bin Ali and his family.