A million pilgrims were ordered to evacuate the holy city of Karbala yesterday as Shiite militias fought each other for control of southern Iraq, killing 51 people. Another 200 were injured in chaos after gunmen loyal to anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr fired on members of the Badr Organization, the armed faction of the Supreme Islamic Council. Snipers also fired on security forces, the LA Times reports.
The government upped its presence in the city by 15,000 troops to protect pilgrims at the religious festival, but they did little to help. The violence started with militants throwing rocks and knives at police, but quickly escalated into widespread panic and violence. Now, Karbala is in flames and the city is under curfew.