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Attack hits Shiites amid Ashura commemorations

18 killed in Iraq violence despite tight security
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 25, 2009 - Eighteen people including six Shiite worshippers were killed in a spate of attacks across Iraq on Friday, despite ramped up security for Christmas Day and Shiite Ashura rituals. Also among the dead were three teachers in northern Iraq and a Kurdish peshmerga security force member while dozens of others were wounded. In eastern Baghdad's Sadr City district, a roadside bomb killed six people and wounded 26 when it struck a procession marking the Ashura commemorations. Most casualties were children, some of whom were under the age of 13, defence and interior ministry officials said on condition of anonymity.

The afternoon attack came just days ahead of the climax on Sunday of the 10-day rituals to commemorate Ashura, which marks the killing of Shiite Imam Hussein by armies of Sunni caliph Yazid in 680. Later at night, four people were killed and five wounded by mortars fired into the residential area of Obaidi, in eastern Baghdad, said a spokesman for the military command in the capital. In the restive northern city of Mosul, meanwhile, three teachers, who were working with Iraq's census authorities, were found shot dead, according to a police officer who did not want to be named. Also in Mosul one civilian was killed and another was wounded by a bomb targeting a police patrol in the centre of the city while in the western part of town police said they found the corpse of a strangled woman. Meanwhile, in the central province of Diyala, two brothers of Mustafa al-Azawi, the Sunni Arab mayor of the town of Mansuriyah, were found dead after they were kidnapped on Friday morning, police said.

The two men were aged 29 and 24. Azawi has two other brothers. A suicide car bomb along a road connecting the northern Iraqi towns of Rabiyaa, near the Syrian border, and Sinoosi also killed a Kurdish peshmerga security force member and wounded 15 others, a force spokesman said. "Some of the wounded are badly injured and they have been transferred to Zakho (a town in Kurdistan) for medical treatment," Colonel Simi Borsli said. The car bomb was targeting a patrol of the peshmerga, the main security force in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

The latest violence follows a spate of attacks across Iraq on Thursday in which dozens of people died. A hospital official put the final toll from twin bomb attacks at a bus station in the southern town of Hilla on Thursday at 19 dead and 80 wounded, up from an earlier death toll of 15. Iraqi authorities have stepped us security in the run-up to Christmas and Ashura deploying more security forces in cities with significant Christian populations such as Baghdad, Mosul and the ethnically-mixed northern city of Kirkuk. Some 46,000 policemen and soldiers have also been deployed in the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, the latter of which is where Imam Hussein is buried and where around one million people are due to visit for Ashura. Security for Christians was increased after the army received intelligence of attacks targeting members of the minority community around around Christmas.
by Staff Writers
Karbala, Iraq (AFP) Dec 27, 2009
Violence struck Shiite worshippers in north Iraq Sunday, while hundreds of thousands of pilgrims marked the climax of Ashura commemorations in the holy shrine city of Karbala.

The attack on worshippers near Kirkuk was the latest in a spate of violence targeting Shiites in recent days, prompting security forces to beef up their presence in Karbala in central Iraq, the main focus of the Ashura events.

In Sunday's attack in the Shiite Turkmen village of Taza Kharmatu near Kirkuk, a bomb ripped through a procession marking Ashura, killing four people and wounding 19, police said.

The attack came a day after three Shiites were killed when bombs struck separate Ashura processions in Baghdad.

Since Tuesday, 32 people have been killed and more than 160 wounded in violence targeting Ashura, including attacks on worshippers in Karbala and Baghdad.

In Karbala, meanwhile, black flags, representing the sadness of Shiites during Ashura, were seen all over the city, along with pictures of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas, who are both buried here.

Masses of pilgrims, most of them dressed in black, gathered around the Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala's Old City for the climax of the 10-day Ashura rituals, which commemorate the killing of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, by armies of the Sunni caliph Yazid in 680.

Karbala police chief General Ali Jassim Mohammed said that around 25,000 policemen and soldiers had been deployed to secure the commemoration ceremonies.

During Ashura in March 2004, near-simultaneous bombings at a Shiite mosque in Baghdad and in Karbala killed more than 170 people.

Provincial governor Amal Adin al-Her estimated that 1.5 million pilgrims will visit Karbala for the Ashura rituals.

Ashura, which means tenth in Arabic, falls on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram.

Tradition holds that Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, was decapitated and his body mutilated by the armies of the Sunni caliph Yazid.

To express remorse and guilt for not saving Hussein, Shiite volunteers flay themselves with chains or slice their scalps during processions to the Karbala shrines.

Shiites make up around 15 percent of Muslims worldwide. They represent the majority populations in Iraq, Iran and Bahrain and form significant communities in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

earlier related report
Shiite pilgrims pour into Iraqi shrine city for Ashura
Karbala, Iraq (AFP) Dec 26, 2009 - Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims descended on Iraq's holy shrine city of Karbala on Saturday for the climax of Ashura commemorations, despite fears of violent attacks by Sunni extremists.

As they poured into Karbala, violence across Iraq claimed the lives of nine people, including three worshippers killed when bombs struck separate Ashura procession in Baghdad.

Security forces have beefed up their presence in Karbala and authorities are also checking on the 60,000-odd foreign worshippers expected to attend the ceremonies to ensure they do not have swine flu.

Black flags, representing the sadness of Shiites during Ashura, were seen all over the central Iraqi city, south of Baghdad, along with pictures of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas, who are both buried here.

Masses of pilgrims, most of them dressed in black, gathered around the Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala's Old City on Saturday evening.

The 10-day Ashura rituals which end on Sunday commemorate the killing of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, by armies of the Sunni caliph Yazid in 680.

"I came to show my belief in Imam Hussein -- this event has nothing to do with personal motivations or politics," said 40-year-old Mohammed Abdul Hussein, who travelled from neighbouring Babil province.

Karbala police chief General Ali Jassim Mohammed said that around 25,000 policemen and soldiers had been deployed to secure the commemoration ceremonies.

Security perimeters have also been formed throughout the city, while helicopters are providing extra surveillance and bomb-sniffing dogs are being used at checkpoints.

To counter women suicide attackers who have struck Karbala before, security forces have deployed 600 female personnel on three roads into the city. Cameras are also monitoring pilgrims' movements across Karbala.

During Ashura in March 2004, near-simultaneous bombings at a Shiite mosque in Baghdad and in Karbala killed more than 170 people.

Since Tuesday, 28 people have been killed and more than 130 wounded in violence targeting Ashura, including attacks on worshippers in Karbala and Baghdad.

Saturday afternoon, a blast targeting a procession marking Ashura in Baghdad Jadida (new Baghdad) in the east of the capital killed two people and wounded eight others.

And in the Shiite district of Abu Tcheer, south Baghdad, an explosion against a procession killed one person and wounded nine others.

A roadside bomb also killed six people, most them children on Friday in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad neighbourhood of Sadr City. Twenty-six others were wounded in the attack that struck a Ashura procession.

A day earlier in Karbala, a bomb killed one person and wounded 12.

Security chiefs have also vowed to prevent any political exploitation of the festival as Iraq prepares to go to the polls for parliamentary elections on March 7.

Authorities are also concerned about the spread of swine flu from foreign worshippers, the majority of whom are arriving from Iran, Pakistan and Arab Gulf countries.

"We expect more than 60,000 foreign pilgrims to come, and we have ordered them to visit health centres to be sure they do not have any diseases," said provincial governor Amal Adin al-Her.

"All hotel owners must inform authorities about any cases of illness among their residents."

He estimates that 1.5 million pilgrims will visit Karbala on Saturday and Sunday.

Ashura, which means tenth in Arabic, falls on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram.

Tradition holds that Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, was decapitated and his body mutilated by the armies of the caliph Yazid.

To express remorse and guilt for not saving Hussein, Shiite volunteers flay themselves with chains or slice their scalps during processions to the Karbala shrines.

Shiites make up around 15 percent of Muslims worldwide. They represent the majority populations in Iraq, Iran and Bahrain and form significant communities in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Six other people were also killed in separate attacks Saturday, including a Sunni Muslim tribal leader who died in a bomb explosion in Abu Ghreib just west of the capital, and the wife of a traffic policeman killed in a drive-by shooting in west Baghdad.



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Iraq attacks kill scores on eve of Christmas, Ashura
Hilla, Iraq (AFP) Dec 24, 2009
Twenty-seven people were killed and more than 100 wounded in a string of attacks across Iraq on Thursday ahead of Christmas and the Shiite commemoration ceremonies of Ashura. In the worst attack, 15 people including a provincial councillor were killed and 70 wounded when twin bombs struck outside a busy bus station in Hilla, south of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. "Fifteen people, includ ... read more







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