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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Service Manager

£37000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has a track record...

Recruitment Genius: Solar Field Sales Executive

£40000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable