In a brutal attack, insurgents in Iraq gunned down 14 pilgrims — three Indians and 11 Pakistanis — while they were on their way to the Shia holy city of Karbala.
The gunmen stopped a bus with 40 pilgrims on August 31, separated the women and children before shooting the men “execution style” after tying their hands and legs, reports reaching here from Baghdad said.
Identifying the three Indians as Jaffer Mashadi of Vishakhapatnam, Moin Beigh and Mohammad Ahmad Ali, both from Hyderabad, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed today said they were part of a group of 40 pilgrims from India and Pakistan. There were reports that five women were among the Pakistanis shot dead, but Iraqi interior ministry spokesman Brig Gen Abdul Karim Khalaf said the attackers freed women and children before they “shot dead the men, execution-style”.
Ahamed said the armed men intercepted the pilgrims’ bus on August 31, segregated male members of the group and whisked them away.
Mohammad Sikandar Ali, brother of deceased Mohammed Ahmad Ali, said in Hyderabad that money and luggage were taken away from the women before they were sent to Karbala with a driver. The men were taken a short distance and shot dead. “Around midnight, we got information that Ahmad Ali had been killed,” he said.
Quoting information received from India’s Charge d’Affaires in Baghdad, Kedar Singh, Ahamed said the bodies of the three Indians were lying in a Karbala hospital.
The wives of two of the dead men and the mother-in-law of the third were part of the group of pilgrims. The families of the dead men had given permission to the Indian mission to conduct their last rites in Karbala, Ahamed said.
The pilgrims had entered Iraq through Syria and their trip was arranged by a travel agent.
Karbala city health director Salim Kadhim said they were killed on a route that comes across the desert from Iraq’s western border past the city of Bamadi, a stronghold of Sunni Arab insurgents often blamed for attacking Shia Iraqi and foreign pilgrims going to Karbala.