Monday, August 06, 2007

Baghdad under 3-day curfew for religious festival

Above: In 2005 approximately 1,000 died on a river bridge over the Tigris as about a million Shias marched to a shrine for the religious festival. Many victims, mostly women, children or elderly, were crushed or drowned when they leapt from the bridge. Witnesses said panic spread over rumours of suicide bombers. Becasue according to tradition they were supposed to walk across barefoot, the bridge was littered with the shoes afterwards.

Iraq's authorities ordered cars off the streets of Baghdad for three days from Tuesday to protect Shi'ite pilgrims gathering for a major religious festival in the capital.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said on Monday the ban was aimed at thwarting attacks on pilgrims, vulnerable as they walk to the shrine of Imam Musa Khadim in the northern district of Kadhimiya.

Nearly 1,000 Shi'ite pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the ceremony in 2005, when a crowd heading towards the shrine was panicked by rumours of a suicide bomber.

It was the greatest loss of Iraqi life in a single incident since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet