August 7, 2007 / 10:35 AM / 12 years ago

Baghdad curfew announced ahead of Shi'ite festival

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A three-day vehicle ban across Baghdad is to take effect from Wednesday night, the Iraqi military said on Tuesday, as authorities seek to protect Shi’ite pilgrims gathering for a major religious festival.

Baghdad’s chief military spokesman, Brigadier-General Qassim Moussawi, said it would start at 10 p.m. EDT on Wednesday and end at 5 a.m. EDT on Saturday.

A curfew would, however, take effect from Tuesday night in the northern district of Kadhimiya, where thousands of pilgrims are expected to converge on the shrine of Imam Musa Kadhim in the next few days.

Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier Abdul Karim Khalaf earlier announced the Baghdad-wide vehicle ban would begin on Tuesday. He later said that was simply a suggestion.

Nearly 1,000 Shi’ite pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the ceremony in 2005 when a crowd heading towards the shrine was panicked by rumors of a suicide bomber.

It was the greatest loss of Iraqi life in a single incident since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

Last year gunmen, some on rooftops, ambushed the pilgrims as they walked in their tens of thousands to the shrine, killing at least 20 and wounding 300.

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