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Iraqi Troops Impose Tight Security Ahead of Shi'ite Ceremony

08 February 2006

Iraqi authorities have imposed tight security in and around Baghdad and the holy city of Karbala where Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims are converging for a major religious ceremony.

Officials expect two million pilgrims to join the main Ashura observances Thursday, marking the 13th century martyrdom of Imam Hussein, one of Shi'ite Islam's most revered leaders.

Government troops have sealed off Karbala to vehicles and are body-searching the arriving pilgrims.

Police in Baghdad also imposed tight security in Kadhimiya district - another site of Shi'ite pilgrimage - and set up checkpoints around the city.

Despite the security, Iraq's higher education minister survived a bomb attack in Baghdad that wounded three people.

In the past, insurgents have attacked pilgrims during Ashura observances. In 2004, about 170 people were killed.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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