Police in Basra Province have arrested members of a hitherto unknown armed group, which police say was planning attacks against Shi'a pilgrims in southern Iraq.
A source in the Basra police said that special security forces arrested two men suspected of belonging to a new armed organization identified in Arabic as Jund al-Rahma, or Soldiers of Mercy.
The source told Newsmatique that “special operations forces of the Basra province police conducted a raid at dawn Monday in the al-Tanouma area, the center of the Shat al-Arab district, about six kilometers west of the city,” adding that the raid resultedin the arrests of two people suspected of membership in the Jund al-Rahma armed organization.
The agency said the source asked for anonymity but was identified as an officer of high rank.
The source added that the arrest operation was implemented following intelligence information, and described the group as “terrorist” in nature, saying that preliminary investigations with the detainees show that the group planned to conduct armed attacks targeting citizens headed to Karbala Province by foot for the Arba'iniya of Imam Husayn ibn Ali.”
Millions of Shi'a pilgrims will make their way to Karbala to observe the traditional mourning ceremony for the revered Imam Hussein, forty days after commemorating his martyrdom in the observance of Ashoura.
Newsmatique writes that Basra Province, and specifically the al-Tanouma area, was a center of arrest operations against the millenarian “Ansar al-Imam al-Mahdi” armed group in 2008.