14 Indian, Pakistani pilgrims killed in Iraq

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Fourteen pilgrims, three of them Indian nationals, who were travelling to Shi'ite holy sites in Iraq were abducted and slain in Anbar province - the heartland of the Sunni insurgency.

An official at the Al-Hussein hospital in Kerbala stated that the men were bound and then shot in the head. Some of the bodies that were brought to the hospital showed signs of having been tortured, and one had been partially beheaded.

An attack on a Shia shrine this February has led to increasing sectarian violence in Iraq, prompting the Pentagon to release a 63-page assessment report that warned of a possible "civil war" between the Shias and the Sunni minority. The U.S report, however, indicated the fact that the current violence could be quelled to prevent it from escalating into a full-scale war. Washington has been trying to strengthen Iraqi security forces to curb the conflict and enforce the authority of Prime Minister Nuri-al-Malliki, but has, so far, been unsuccessful. A ceremony to hand over operational command of Iraqi armed forces from U.S-troops to local authorities was postponed due to poor planning of the itenary.

India's Deputy Foreign Minister E.Ahmed expressed regret over the fact that the victims had ignored an Indian advisory against travelling to Iraq. Pakistan condemned the killings and once again warned its citizens against visiting Iraq.