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Iraqi police detain 15 illegal Iranian pilgrims in Karbala

Karbala, April 3, IRNA -- Fifteen Iranian pilgrims are being held in police custody in this holy Shi'ite city in southern Iraq on charge of illegal entry into the war-ravaged country, an informed police source told IRNA here Saturday.

The source, who asked not to be named, said that most of the detainees were men, who had been picked up by the Iraqi police since last week after illegally entering the country ahead of the major mourning occasion of Arbain.

The arrests came following a series of coordinated attacks which turned a similar commemoration into carnage in early March, in which 171 people were killed in Karbala and Baghdad.

Arbain marks the peak of a 40-day period of mourning for Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) grandson Imam Hussein (AS), who was martyred in the plains of Karbala more than 1,300 years ago.

The occasion is expected to attract millions of Muslims to the holy city, giving Iraqi police enough reason to worry amid worsening security situation in the war-torn country.

According to the informed police source, efforts were underway to release the Iranian detainees in the next few days and repatriate them, given that their intentions were merely pilgrimage.

Despite the Iraqi Governing Council's implementing of new security measures following the Ashura bombings, some Iranian pilgrims set out illegally for the holy sites in the country.

According to witnesses, many illegal pilgrims avoid arrest by the Iraqi police by prodigally bribing them.

Illegal arrivals have turned to a major security issue for Iraq, forcing its leading Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to issue a decree, in which he banned such entries.

Iran, which has a dominant Shi'ite Muslim population, took action following the Ashura bombings and closed all its border crossing points with Iraq, except for Manzariyah, Zorbatiyah and Shalamchah.

... Payvand News - 4/3/04 ... --

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