The Ashura massacre of March 2, 2004 in Iraq was a series of planned terrorist explosions that killed at least 178 and injured at least 500 Iraqi Shi'a Muslims commemorating the Day of Ashura. The bombings brought one of the deadliest days in the Iraq occupation after the Iraq War to topple Saddam Hussein.
Nine explosions were detonated in Karbala, accompanied by mortar, grenade, and rocket fire, killing over 100 people, while three explosions near the Kadhimiya Shrine in Baghdad killed 58 more. Though the attack involved armed squads, car bombs, and up to a dozen suicide bombers, there was also an explosive-laden vehicle which was intercepted while trying to enter Basra, as were two suicide bombers in Karbala and others in Baghdad who had entered via Syria. The squads armed with rockets and small arms were meant to kill those wounded by the blasts as well as to trap those trying to flee the carnage.
Al-Qaeda was immediately held responsible for the attack, and it was believed their intent was to cause much more destruction than actually occurred.
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the American commander in Baghdad, initially blamed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for the attacks, but it was subsequently revealed that his field commander in Iraq, Abu Abdallah al Hassan Ben Mahmoud, directed the attacks. Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a highly influential Shiite in Iraq, blamed the U.S. for allowing the attacks to occur.