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Iraq slaps daytime curfew to stem violence

Iraq has slapped a daytime curfew on Baghdad and three neighbouring provinces, to prevent a new outburst of sectarian violence on the Muslim day of prayers.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 14:05 IST

Iraq on Friday slapped a daytime curfew on Baghdad and three neighbouring provinces, to prevent a new outburst of sectarian violence on the Muslim day of prayers, security officials said.

The measure, announced by the government overnight, came after two days of bloody reprisals following the bombing of a celebrated Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad.

At least 130 people, mostly Sunni Arabs, were killed nationwide Wednesday and Thursday, officials said.

Top government and political leaders held an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the crisis. One of the participants, Mahmud Othman, a Kurdish representative, said "everyone" at the meeting had spoken of the risk of civil war and expressed concern that Friday prayers, when tensions often run high, could trigger a new outburst of violence.

An overnight curfew enforced for the past two years -- which on Wednesday had already been extended by three hours -- was further extended till 1300 GMT Friday in Baghdad, Diyala, Salaheddin and Babil provinces.

All civilian flights from Baghdad airport have been cancelled.

Because of the late night announcement, many people Friday morning did not know of the curfew and found themselves being turned back at roadblocks across the capital.

In the latest violence, a Shiite muezzin, who calls for prayers from mosques, was shot dead in the northern town of Tuz Khormatu overnight while a car-bomb attack targeted a mosque in the southern city of Basra, police said.

Two people were wounded in the bombing.

Despite the curfew, it is expected that people would still be able to attend prayer meetings at their local mosques Friday.

First Published: Feb 24, 2006 14:05 IST