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Curfew imposed in Karbala to stop pilgrimage violence

Curfew imposed in Karbala to stop pilgrimage violence

Police ordered a curfew yesterday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala and ordered more than one million pilgrims to leave after two days of violence claimed least 10 lives during a Shiite religious festival.
The police joint coordination command issued the order after heavy shooting broke out in the center of the city yesterday. Trouble started late Monday when scuffles broke out between police and pilgrims said to have bean angry over strict security.
Gunshots rang out yesterday in the area near the city's two major Shiite shrines which are the focal point of celebrations marking the birthday of the 12th and last Shiite imam, who disappeared in the 9th century. The festival was to have reached its high point yesterday night and this morning.
At least five people were killed in gunfire Tuesday that apparently re-erupted when the Shiite faithful tried to push past frustratingly slow security checkpoints near the Imam al-Hussein mosque.
A member of the city council said the center of town was in chaos with pilgrims running in all directions to escape the gunfire. No one, he said, was sure who was doing the shooting. He said a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near the shrine.
"We don't know what's going on," said the councilman, who wouldn't allow use of his name for security reasons. "All we know is the huge numbers of pilgrims was too much for the checkpoints to handle and now there is shooting."
Four people - two men and two women - were killed in a similar melee near the mosque Monday night. One of the wounded died overnight. Associated Press Television News pictures from the city, 80 kilometers south of Baghdad, showed pilgrims running helter-skelter as gunfire, apparently police shooting into the air, rang out through the streets near the mosque.
North of Baghdad, hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi forces backed by helicopters and jet fighters killed 33 Sunni insurgents who were holding back the water supply to the Shiite town of Khalis, the American command said in a statement yesterday.
The assault began before dawn on Monday when a joint force was landed by helicopter in the village of Gubbiya, 15 kilometers east of Khalis. The assault force killed 13 fighters and attack aircraft killed 20 others, the military said. The area is known to be controlled by al-Qaida in Iraq. Khalis, 80 kilometers north of Baghdad, has been the scene of repeated Sunni insurgent bombings and mortar attacks.
"The objective of the mission was to open the spillway, which regulates water flow to the town of Khalis, restoring the essential service of water," the statement said.
The assault uncovered three weapons caches, led to the capture of three men and "water is currently flowing unimpeded to Khalis," the military said. The statement did not say if any U.S. or Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded.
A Bradley Fighting Vehicle was seen engulfed in flames at the side of the road leading to Baghdad Airport yesterday morning. The U.S. military said the armored vehicle had suffered an undetermined mechanical fault and none of the crew was hurt.
In Fallujah, the Sunni city 65 kilometers west of Baghdad, mourners buried 11 victims of a mosque suicide bombing Monday night. Ten people were wounded in the attack which police said targeted an anti-al-Qaida Sunni sheik who had just returned from Syria.