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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 August 2005, 20:32 GMT 21:32 UK
Mass Shia wedding held in Baghdad
Couples at the Shia mass wedding ceremony in Baghdad
Many couples say they could not afford to pay for a wedding
A Shia charity has organised a mass wedding for 100 Iraqi couples in a mainly poor district of Baghdad.

The brides and grooms sat on plastic chairs in a blue tent in a mosque in the capital's Sadr City district.

Correspondents say it is an area with high unemployment and many couples are not able to afford marriage.

The event was paid for by the Martyrs' Association for Humanitarian Services, which gave each couple a gift of about $600 (340) and a copy of the Koran.

Tight security

The association's leader, Hussein al-Shami, said the aim was to rebuild the family after Saddam Hussein's regime had tried to break it apart.

Couple at mass wedding in Baghdad

"The former unjust regime tried to break apart society and the family by killing the men, scattering the boys and allowing women to leave the house," he said.

Security around the mosque was tight and everyone entering the grounds was searched several times for fear of suicide attackers.

Alaa Khalaf, 27, one of the grooms, said he would not have been able to get married had it not been for the mass wedding.

"It is impossible to be able to cover the expenses of marriage," he said.

Cleric Abul-Hasan al-Mousawi, said: "There is a big number of unemployed people who find difficulties to get married.

"This gathering aims to encourage other young people to get married."

Meanwhile, the fight against the insurgency continued over the weekend.

The US military announced it had killed six insurgents and captured 12 others during fighting with militants in southern Baghdad on Friday evening.

US and Iraqi forces are also conducting a major counter-insurgency operation around the town of Haditha in western Iraq.

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