Monday, August 27, 2007

3 killed, 13 wounded as police fire on pilgrims during clashes in Karbala

Above and Left: Pilgrims and their animals are frisked by Iraqi soldiers as over a million Shiites flow into the holy city of Karbala for the Shabaniyah festival which marks the birth of Mohammed al-Mahdi, the 12th and last Shiite Imam who disappeared in the 9th century. The festival will reach its high point late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

Police killed three people on Monday night in clashes with pilgrims in Iraq's city of Kerbala, where tens of thousands of Shi'ites have gathered for one of the holiest days on the Shi'ite calendar.

A Reuters photographer said he saw one pilgrim shot dead outside his hotel. Several wounded people were carried away by fellow pilgrims.

A water tanker was ablaze and the sounds of gunfire echoed in the streets around the hotel, situated between the Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas mosques, for about two hours, he said.

Police said they opened fire on a large crowd of pilgrims infuriated by the strict security measures in force in the city for the celebrations, killing three and wounding 13. The shots were fired after the pilgrims began brawling with the policemen.

A pilgrim in Kerbala said tensions were running high in the city. He said that scores of policemen were on the main roads leading to the two shrines and others on rooftops. Some carried heavy machineguns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet