Two buses crash kill 16 peo­ple in Baghdad

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

BAGHDAD: Six­teen peo­ple, in­clud­ing 14 Ira­nian pil­grims vis­it­ing Shi­ite holy sites in Iraq, died Fri­day when two buses crashed south of Baghdad, Iraqi of­fi­cials said.

The spokesman for Ba­bil prov­ince po­lice, Maj. Muthana Khalid, said the buses car­ry­ing Ira­nian and Iraqi pil­grims over­turned in the south­ern city of Hil­lah, about 60 miles (95 kilo­me­ters) south of the cap­i­tal.

Two Iraqis were also killed, and more than 50 Iraqis and Ira­ni­ans were in­jured.

Dr. Saad Al-Nakaash of Hil­lah hos­pi­tal con­firmed the ca­su­al­ties.

Shi­ite pil­grims come from all over the world to visit shrines and mosques in Iraq that are revered by Shi­ites, but the vast ma­jor­ity of the re­li­gious tourists are Ira­ni­ans.

Both Iran and Iraq are Shi­ite ma­jor­ity coun­tries. But be­fore the 2003 U.S.-led in­va­sion, re­la­tions be­tween the Ira­nian govern­ment and Sad­dam Hus­sein's mi­nor­ity Sunni dom­i­nated coun­try were so strained that it was much more dif­fi­cult for Ira­ni­ans to visit what are con­sid­ered some of the most holy sites for Shi­ites.

Iran and Iraq fought a bru­tal eight-year war in the 1980s that left hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple dead on both sides.

Af­ter Sad­dam was de­posed, Ira­ni­ans flooded into the coun­try to see such lo­ca­tions as the Imam Hus­sein and Imam Ab­bas mosques in Kar­bala and the Imam Ali mosque in Na­jaf, and their tourist dol­lars be­came an im­por­tant source of in­come for Iraq.

The pil­grims have of­ten been tar­geted by Sunni ex­trem­ists who view Shi­ites as non­be­liev­ers, but Fri­day's crash did not ap­pear to be re­lated to vi­o­lence. -Ap

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