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13 killed in Iraq as Shiite pilgrims end major rituals

English.news.cn   2014-05-25 23:57:34

BAGHDAD, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims ended Sunday a relatively peaceful religious ritual at the holy golden-domed shrine in Iraq amid tightened security, while violence across the country killed a total of 13 people and wounded some 37 others, security and medical sources said.

Every year, Shiite pilgrims gather at the mausoleum of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in Baghdad's northern district of Kadhmiyah to commemorate the death of one of the most revered Shiite imams.

During the past few days, throngs of pilgrims from Iraqi cities, as well as other Muslim countries, flocked to Kadhmiyah's mausoleum to observe the annual commemoration of the imam who was poisoned to death while in prison in the year 977 AD.

According to Iraq's official estimates, more than 8 million pilgrims visited the shrine, which culminated on Saturday and ended on Sunday noon.

During the event, Iraqi authorities deployed thousands of Iraqi security troops, who set up checkpoints and patrolled routes of the worshippers as they trekked across Baghdad and the main roads leading to the capital, while army helicopters hovered overhead.

A ban on vehicles, including bicycles and motorcycles, was imposed inside and around the district of Kadhmiyah, and the troops blocked many roads used by the pilgrims in addition to blocking all the entrances to the holy site. Only pedestrians were allowed, but they had to cross several rings of security checkpoints.

"More than 60,000 personnel from the Defense and Interior Ministry have participated in protecting the Shiite pilgrimage, in addition to dozens of female security members who checked thousands of female worshippers at checkpoints around Kadhmiyah district," Lieutenant General Abdul Amir al-Shimary, Commander of Baghdad operations Command, told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad.

Despite the security measures, several deadly attacks occurred just three days earlier when militants attacked the pilgrims on Thursday evening in Baghdad, killing at least 21 pilgrims and wounding some 81 others.

No group claimed the responsibility for Thursday attacks, but insurgents frequently carried out such attacks against Shiite pilgrims who perform communal rituals in Iraq, in attempts to provoke sectarian strife in the violence-ridden country.

Attacks continued in Iraq's western province of Anbar on Sunday when eight people were killed and 26 wounded by artillery and mortar shelling on several neighborhoods in the militant-seized city of Fallujah, a medical source from the city hospital told Xinhua.

In a separate incident, a roadside bomb detonated near a police patrol in the city of Haditha, leaving two policemen dead and four others wounded, a provincial police source told Xinhua.

Also in the province, a policeman and his son were wounded when assailants detonated a bomb in their house in the city of Heet, while two more policemen were wounded when militants threw hand grenades on their patrol in the city, the source added.

Anbar province has been the scene of fierce clashes that flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside Ramadi in late December last year.

In Salahudin province, two soldiers were shot dead by gunmen who attacked their base near the city of Tikrit, a provincial police source told Xinhua.

Also in the province, Brigadier General Mohammed Najib, deputy chief of the provincial police, escaped unharmed a twin roadside bomb explosions near his convoy in northern Tikrit, but two of his bodyguards were wounded, the source said.

In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, Yas al-Timimi, head of the provincial Accountability and Justice Commission, was seriously injured when a sticky bomb attached to his car exploded in the town of Wajihiyah near the provincial capital city of Baquba, a provincial police source said.

Timimi's commission prevents loyalists of the ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein from participating in politics.

In a separate incident, security forces clashed with a gunman in the province and shot him dead in Hinbus area, the source added.

Iraq is witnessing some of its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, a total of 8,868 Iraqis, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, were killed in 2013, the highest annual death toll in years.

Editor: yan
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