8 Iraqi Shi'ite pilgrims killed in bomb blast
Baghdad, Jan 30: Eight Shi'ite pilgrims marking the climax ofthe annual Ashura religious ceremony were killed today in an explosionas they walked in procession through a street in a town northeast ofBaghdad, police said.
Police said it was not immediately clear what caused theexplosion, which also wounded 30 people. The town of Khanaqin is nearthe Iranian border and is ethnically and religiously mixed, with apopulation of Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shi'ites.
The focus of Ashura is the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala south ofBaghdad, where an estimated 2 million pilgrims have gathered to mournthe death in battle of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson there 1,300years ago. Shi'ites in other towns also mark the occasion.
There have been no reports of violence in Kerbala. About 11,000police and soldiers have been deployed to guard against any attack bySunni insurgents, who have targeted the event, the highpoint of theShi'ite religious calendar, in the past.
This year's Ashura ceremony takes place amid heightened sectariantensions between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Tens of thousands have diedin tit-for-tat shootings and bombings since the bombing of the Shi'itemosque in Samarra last February.