Baghdad's Shiite Pilgrimage: Danger Amid Piety : The Two-Way Baghdad's Shiite pilgrimage through a Sunni area combined a sense of danger with piety.
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Baghdad's Shiite Pilgrimage: Danger Amid Piety

Being a foreign correspondent in a violent place is often about striking the right balance between conducting just one more interview for the sake of the story and packing up your recorder before trouble strikes.

It means trusting your instincts but also your assistant, known as a fixer, or a local reporter you may be traveling with.

A sense of the need to strike that balance comes through in a report by NPR's Kelly McEvers who from Baghdad for All Things Considered Thursday about a religious pilgrimage of Shiites through the city's Sunni Adhamiya neighborhood.

The pilgrimage was a test of the Iraqi government's ability to provide security, especially since the pilgrims were a ready target for those committed to opposing the Shiite-led government.

So Kelly was there this week with an Iraqi reporter. They were there to witness the scene and conduct interviews. She was on the bridge leading to the shrine of the revered Imam Khadim who, the story goes, was poisoned by a Sunni caliph in 799 AD.

She describes a fairly relaxed scene, with some pilgrims even sleeping on the ground and a Sunni man providing water and use of his courtyard to the Shiite pilgrims. It was "a kind of solidarity" between Sunnis and Shiites the man told Kelly and the Iraqi reporter.

But then comes this moment in her report:

KELLY: Looking around we see young pilgrims wrapped in white shrouds, a message that they're ready to die. We decide it's time to turn back.

Later, after sundown, a suicide bomber killed two dozen pilgrims and wounded scores more. And other bombs went off around the city. In all 54 Shiite pilgrims died this week and more than 300 were injured...