Two Britons die in gun attack on Karbala pilgrims

Two Britons were killed and three others injured in an attack by gunmen on pilgrims returning from the Shia holy city of Karbala to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

It is believed the victims all lived in south-east England and were on a religious tour. According to Iraqi police sources, the two dead men were of Pakistani origin and the three injured are of Indian and South African extraction.

A member of London's Shia Muslim community confirmed the identity of the two dead men as Saifuddin Makai, 39, from Streatham, and Husain Mohammedali, 50, from Harrow.

The three injured are Ali Azgar, Zahra Hassan Bahayi and Yahya Bahari Males, the latter two of South African background. The group had been on a visit to two of the cities considered the most holy by Shia - Najaf and Karbala - and were on their way back to the capital when their four-wheel drive car broke down.

They were being given a lift by the driver of a passing blue Kia minibus when armed men in two cars overtook them and opened fire. The minibus driver has told the police that he had encountered the British group by chance and had no idea who the attackers were.

Shabbir Abidali, a trustee of the Husseini mosque at the Mohammedi Park Masjid Complex in Northolt, west London, where the two dead men had worshipped for around 15 years, said the men had visited the shrines in Iraq several times. They were coming to the end of their four-day pilgrimage and were near the airport when they were killed.

Mr Makai, who was of Asian origin and had three school-age children, emigrated from Nairobi, Kenya, around 20 years ago. He ran a travel exchange business from Streatham with his wife and was a "very devout member of the community", according to Mr Abidali.

He added: "He was a wonderful man. He was a very active member of the community and was known for his generosity."

Mr Mohammedali, who had four young children, was of Asian origin and had left Uganda to make a life in Britain around 20 years ago. He owned a double-glazing business and his wife has a business in interior design.

Mr Abidali, who has known both men for years, said Mr Mohammedali that had been "a very loving father and a very capable man who will be greatly missed". He had been in touch with both men's families who were "devastated and shocked" by the news.

Zahra Hassan Bahayi, the injured woman, was treated at Yarmoukh hospital in Baghdad. She said: "We were just coming along and heard shots. We immediately got down. I don't know what happened and I did not see anything."

It is unclear if the group were targeted because of their citizenship. Iraqi police said they were looking at reports that the group had stopped a number of cars before being picked up and that their presence would have become quickly known in the locality.

However, the area where the attack occurred, near the town of Mahmudiyah in the so-called Triangle of Death, has experienced increasing numbers of attacks on Shia travellers, often going to and from the holy cities, by Sunni gunmen.

The injured Britons were later visited by American soldiers at Yarmoukh hospital and then moved to the Ibn Senna hospital within the heavily fortified Green Zone where US and British officials and members of the Iraqi government live and work.

An Iraqi police officer said: "The place where the incident happened, about 5km outside Mahmudiyah, is very dangerous for any foreigners. They were followed and then shot. What we do not know is at what stage they became a target."

Foreign fighters, some claiming allegiance to al-Qa'ida in Iraq, which is run by the Jordanian-born insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have made the three towns of the triangle - Mahmudiyah, Latafiyah and Iskandariyah - their base of operations in the past. Several offensives were launched in the area by American and Iraqi government forces before and after last year's major operation against Fallujah.

Arts & Entertainment
William Shakespeare's influence on English culture is still strongly felt today, from his plays on stage to words we use everyday
arts
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
With Jo Joyner in 'Trying Again'
tvHe talks to Alice Jones on swapping politics for pillow talk
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Student
student
News
<b>Rebecca Adlington</b>
<br />This, the first British swimmer to win two
Olympic gold medals in 100 years, is the eversmiling
face of the athletes who will, we're
confident, make us all proud at London 2012
peopleRebecca Adlington on 'nose surgery'
Arts & Entertainment
tvJudge for yourself
Life & Style
tech
News
Tough call: is the psychological distress Trott is suffering an illness? (Getty)
healthJonathan Trott and the problems of describing mental illness
Life & Style
23 April 2014: Google marks St George's Day with a drawing depicting England's patron saint slaying a fire-breathing dragon
tech
Life & Style
On the dogwalk: a poodle on the runway during a Mulberry show in London
fashionThe duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
News
peopleEmma Appleton says photographer said he would shoot her for magazine if she slept with him
Extras
indybest
News
peopleRevealed: Goop.com's losses - and the pay rises
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Projects Financial Analyst - Global Technology firm

£55000 - £62000 per annum + outstanding benefits and bonus: Pro-Recruitment Gr...

Reception Teacher

£120 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Reception teacher required for an Outs...

Commercial B2B Pricing Specialist - Global Bids and Tenders

£35000 - £45000 per annum + excellent company benefits : Pro-Recruitment Group...

DT Teacher - Food Technology

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job We are currently recr...

Day In a Page

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents