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 ... --