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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 August, 2003, 22:31 GMT 23:31 UK
Iranian pilgrims risk life and limb
Iranian TV footage of land mine on Iran-Iraq border
The Iran-Iraq war has left the border littered with mines

Over 100 Iranian pilgrims have lost their lives trying to cross the border into Iraq, Iranian TV has said.

Most of them were killed by land mines or heatstroke, the coroner of the western Iranian town of Ilam, Javad Salari, was quoted as saying.

For several weeks now Tehran has been trying to stop its citizens from embarking on the hazardous pilgrimage to the Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala, two of Shi'ite Islam's holiest sites.

Pilgrims were unable to travel to Iraq under the regime of ousted President Saddam Hussein.

Now, thousands are attempting to make the pilgrimage in spite of their government's warnings, newspaper reports say.

The two countries' common border has been heavily mined since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Mr Salari told the TV that 21 dead bodies had been brought to his office within a 24-hour period.

He added that some bodies were being kept in the yard until identified by families because the morgue was already full.

The head of Iran's army, Gen Naser Mohammedifar, has warned Iranians that they should not attempt the journey into Iraq until it has been legalised.

Meanwhile, Tehran has also approved a plan to open consulates in Basra and Karbala to help pilgrims travelling in Iraq.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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