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Iraq: Hundreds Of Thousands of Shi'ites Make Pilgrimage To Karbala


Karbala, Iraq; 22 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite Muslims today converged on the Iraqi city of Karbala to participate in a pilgrimage that was banned under the regime of Saddam Hussein. The pilgrimage, which culminates tomorrow, commemorates the death of the seventh-century Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

Some Shi'ite leaders have called for the massive gathering to be used as a protest against the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Some pilgrims carried signs or chanted slogans denouncing the United States, while others denounced Saddam Hussein.

Also today, the U.S.-appointed administrator for postwar Iraq, Jay Garner, met with Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. The two are expected to meet later with Mas'ud Barzani, the rival Kurdish leader.

In another development, U.S. Central Command in Qatar said they had captured a former military commander and prime minister, Muhammad Hamza al-Zubeidi, one of the U.S. military's most-wanted fugitives from the Iraqi regime.

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