Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Authorities evacuate pilgrims from Kerbala

(Reuters) - Local authorities began evacuating Shi'ite pilgrims from the holy Iraqi city of Kerbala on Tuesday after fierce clashes between security forces and gunmen during a major religious event, police said. Police said buses had been readied to take pilgrims out of the southern city while police and army reinforcements were heading toward the Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein shrines, the focal point of the celebrations.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are in Kerbala, many having come from other Shi'ite cities and also Baghdad. A senior hospital official in Kerbala said six people had been killed and 28 wounded in the clashes. Police earlier said gunmen armed with automatic weapons and pistols tried to take control of the area around the two shrines. They confronted the police and army who opened fire.
The violence follows clashes between police and pilgrims on Monday night in which at least six people were killed on the eve of one of the holiest events on the Shi'ite calendar. Pilgrims are celebrating the 9th century birth of Mohammad al-Mahdi, the last of 12 imams Shi'ites revere as saints and who they believe never died and will return to save mankind.

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