The blast in Hilla that killed over 100 people, mostly Iranian pilgrims, reinforces the fear that the Islamic State remains a potent force in Iraq despite recent military setbacks. By attacking a town located between Najaf and Karbala, two of Shia Islam’s holiest places, at a time when Shia Muslims around the world travel to Karbala to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the IS has left no doubt about who it is targeting. Besides, the attack came nearly six weeks after Iraqi government troops, aided by Iran and the U.S., started a massive operation to retake Mosul, which has been under IS control since June 2014. It is not difficult to understand the IS’s strategy. In the past, when its bases came under attack, the group had used terror to strike faraway civilian centres. 

Needless to say, this is a major security failure for the Iraqi government. When the pilgrimage season began, many had warned that the IS would make an attempt to attack around Karbala. What is more worrisome for the government troops is the battlefield flexibility the IS is demonstrating. It is fighting a conventional war against the government troops in Mosul while unleashing guerrilla attacks elsewhere.
More than a month after the battle for Mosul began, government troops are yet to make any substantial territorial gains. 
On the other side, civilian casualties are relatively high. According to the UN, around 20 per cent of the injured in Mosul are civilians, compared to the average 5 per cent in other recent anti-IS operations. Once Iraqi troops, largely Shia, enter the city that is home to a million people who are mostly Sunni, casualties could be higher. The IS, given its history of exploiting Shia-Sunni sectarian tensions to its advantage, may be waiting just for that. 
Against this background, the Iraqi government faces huge challenges. 

First, it has to make real battleground advances in Mosul with minimum civilian casualties to raise the pressure on the IS while boosting its capability to fight potential terror strikes. In the last two major terror strikes alone, the IS has killed over 400 people in Iraq. 

If it continues to terrorise civilians, the already feeble Iraqi government would suffer a further loss of credibility among the public. Second, the government has to guard against falling into the sectarian trap that the IS has set. In previous anti-IS battles, Iraqi troops were accused of targeting Sunni civilians. If Baghdad doesn’t win over the Sunnis living in its war-ravaged north and north-west, it will not get a grip on the cycle of terror.

Source : THE HINDU


1. Pilgrims (noun) (तीर्थयात्रियों) – a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons
Synonyms – settler, palmer
Ex: As part of his religious education, Ahmad is required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

2. Reinforces (verb) (पुष्ट)– strengthen or support (an object or substance), especially with additional material
Synonyms – enlarge, stroke
Antonyms – decrease, hinder
Ex: Until the construction was complete, extra scaffolding was erected to reinforce the facade.

3. Potent (adjective) (प्रबल)– having great power, influence, or effect
Synonyms – persuasive, robust
Antonyms – inactive, infirm
Ex: The potent poison killed him within seconds.

4. Commemorate (verb) (स्मरण करना)– recall and show respect for (someone or something)
Synonyms – admire, celebrate
Antonyms – disregard, ignore
Ex: The general will commemorate the soldier’s act of heroism by presenting him with a medal.

5. Martyrdom (noun) (शहादत– the death or suffering of a martyr
Synonyms – persecution, devotion
Antonyms – comfort, relief
Ex: The civil rights leader became a martyr for his movement after being assassinated outside his motel room.

6. Massive (adjective) (बड़ा)– large and heavy or solid
Synonyms – immense, colossal
Antonyms – limited, minute
Ex: As a college freshman, I was surprised to be given a massive textbook which I could not carry alone.

7. Unleashing (verb) (उन्मुक्त) – cause (a strong or violent force) to be released or become unrestrained
Synonyms – discharge, free
Antonyms – hold, restrain
Ex: They had no idea of the increased killing power they were unleashing.

8. Sectarian (adjective) (सांप्रदायिक) – denoting or concerning a sect or sects
Synonyms – fanatic, clannish
Antonyms – conforming, liberal
Ex: The sectarian violence is being led by a faction leader who believes the prime minister is not following the laws of the people.

9. Ravaged (adjective) (तबाह) – severely damaged, devastated
Synonyms – demolish, despoil
Antonyms – assist, protect
Ex: If diabetes is not controlled, it can ravage many organs in the human body.

10.Ubiquitous – (देशव्यापी) - present, appearing, or found everywhere
Synonyms – pervasive, universal
Antonyms – rare, scarce
Example – They have become a seemingly ubiquitous part of our national culture.

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