Hundreds of thousands of Shiites marched Thursday to a gold-domed mosque in harsh heat and sun in a pilgrimage of devotion to an 8th century saint that also starkly demonstrated their political power.
Only scattered strikes by Sunni insurgents marred the event, held amid tight security to avoid the attacks that have occurred during past gatherings.
"Long live Muqtada!" some pilgrims shouted as they paraded toward the Imam al-Kadhim shrine, referring to radical Shiite leader Muqtada al Sadr, whose Mahdi army is accused of death squad attacks. "May God kill his enemies!"
A few shook their fists at US soldiers standing alongside the procession route, but the march was mostly peaceful.