Thursday, December 23, 2004

Iran bans travel to Iraq after deadly blasts

IranMania News: "Iran bans travel to Iraq after deadly blasts

Thursday, December 23, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Dec 23 (IranMania) - Iran banned its nationals from travelling to Iraq Wednesday after deadly blasts killed 66 people in the Shiite Muslim pilgrimage cities of Karbala and Najaf earlier this week.

"All borders of Iran with Iraq are now closed and movement in or out prohibited until further notice," said a police announcement carried by Iran's State News Agency (IRNA).

"Due to the worsening situation in Iraq... travel to Iraq's holy cities by Iranian nationals is banned," the statement said, adding that the ban would remain in force "until the security situation improves".

Iraq is the burial place of five of the 12 imams revered by Shiites. The mausoleums of Imam Ali in Najaf, and Imams Hussein and Abbas in Karbala are the holiest.

Sunday's twin blasts in the two cities targeted a bus station and a crowded market street prompting warnings of further attempts to provoke sectarian unrest in Iraq in the run-up to landmark elections next month.

According to AFP, hundreds of thousands of Iranian pilgrims have crossed the border since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein last year to visit Najaf and Karbala, and other shrines in the north-central city of Samarra and in Qadhimiya, in north Baghdad."

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