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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 15:20 GMT
Fresh attacks hit Shia pilgrims
Shia pilgrims heading to Karbala
Many pilgrims travel on foot, making them vulnerable to violence
Attacks on Shia Muslim pilgrims in Iraq are showing no signs of easing off, with at least nine people killed on their way to the holy city of Karbala.

Seven policemen deployed to protect pilgrims were killed by a car bomb in Doura in southern Baghdad. One pilgrim also died.

In central Baghdad, one person died when gunmen opened fire on pilgrims.

On Tuesday, more than 100 people died when suicide bombers targeted a crowd of Shia pilgrims in the town of Hilla.

Attacks on Shia worshippers have intensified as large numbers make their way to Karbala, south of the capital, for a religious commemoration on Saturday.

'Chance for paradise'

US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and coalition forces commander Lt Gen David Petraeus described the attack in Hilla, south of Baghdad, as a cowardly and brutal act against innocent, devout Iraqis.

Many pilgrims said they would continue their journey to Karbala - a large number of them on foot - despite the threat of further attacks.

Map

Abbas Ali, 32, told the Associated Press news agency: "I'm wearing this card to identify me if I'm killed during the journey to Karbala."

Khadija Mouhsin told AP his brother had been killed last year en route to Karbala, but that he was determined to make the journey.

"The terrorists give us the chance to go to paradise," he is quoted as saying.

Some Shia leaders blamed the government for not providing enough security, at a time when it had persuaded the powerful Mahdi Army militia to keep a low profile to avoid confrontation with US forces.

In past years the militia has protected Shia pilgrims from attacks.

But the US military is trying to impose control over militia-dominated Shia Muslim areas, seen as a last attempt to prevent civil war in Iraq.


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