Iraq seals borders during festival to prevent suicide bombings

IRAQ'S INTERIM government announced yesterday that it was sealing its borders to stop Shia pilgrims coming in during the religious festival of Ashura.

Around 170 people were killed last year by suicide bombers in Baghdad and Karbala during Ashura, which is commemorated by Shias. The government said it was taking the emergency measures to prevent a possible repetition. Tensions remain high after the recent elections in which the Shias turned out to vote in force while far fewer numbers of Sunnis - who had been in the ascendancy until the fall of Saddam - went to the polls.

A Shia coalition, organised by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has a significant lead in the votes counted so far and its members are expected to form the core of the new government.

Millions of Shias assemble every year for Ashura, in remembrance of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein in AD680, with many taking part in self-flagellation and mutilation. Many road crossings from Syria, Iran and Jordan are already closed.

Thair al-Naqeeb, the Iraqi interim government's spokesman, said: "We have taken the decision to stop people flooding into Iraq during this time and making the situation dangerous for both themselves and Iraqis."

Meanwhile, violence continued with 10 Iraqi policemen killed in a gun battle with insurgents south of Baghdad. The fighting near Salman Pak, the site of a former arms complex, lasted for several hours and its ferocity prevented the security forces from reaching many of the injured or recovering the dead.

Police officials said that the insurgents were well armed and appeared to have information that enabled them to block off the routes used for reinforcements.

Elsewhere, at least eight Iraqi civilians were killed yesterday, three from a car bomb in central Baghdad where a US Army convoy was thought to be the intended target. South of the capital, police discovered the bodies of 20 drivers who are thought to have been killed on their way to the southern city of Kut on Wednesday.

Iraq's election commission said it was making final checks on about 300 ballot boxes over the next few days and a final result is expected to be announced early next week.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Start a Career as a Financial Markets Trader

£40000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Become a professional Trader a...

Recruitment Genius: Software Implementation Consultant

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Recruitment Genius: Service Desk Co-ordinator / Client Services Administrator

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Warehouse Assistant

£14807 - £15470 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manufacturer and supplier ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks