Gunbattle mars pilgrimage

BAGHDAD: Police ordered a curfew on Tuesday in the Shia holy city of Karbala and ordered The police joint coordination command issued the order after heavy shooting broke out in the centre of the city on Tuesday. Trouble started late on Monday when scuffles broke out between policemen and pilgrims said to be angry over strict security.

Gunshots rang out on Tuesday in the area near the city’s two major Shia shrines which are the focal point of celebrations marking the birthday of the 12th and last Shia imam, who disappeared in the 9th century. The festival was to have reached its high point on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

At least five persons were killed in gunfire on Tuesday that apparently re-erupted when the Shia faithful tried to push past frustratingly slow security checkpoints near the Imam al-Hussein mosque.

A member of the city council said the centre of town was in chaos with pilgrims running in all directions to escape the gunfire. No one, he said, was sure who was doing the shooting.

In Fallujah, the Sunni city 65 km west of Baghdad, mourners buried 11 victims of a mosque suicide bombing on Monday night.

Meanwhile, suspected Sunni gunmen kept up attacks on pilgrims travelling to and from Karbala for the Shabaniyah festival. — AP