Najaf, Iraq

Najaf is a generally peaceful area under tight control by police and Shiite guards. It is home to the Imam Ali shrine, where Shiite Muslims believe the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad is buried.

Millions make pilgrimages to the city annually, and Shiites from across Iraq come to bury their dead in Najaf’s huge cemetery.

The city of Najaf saw heavy fighting in 2004 between the U.S. Army and militiamen loyal to radical anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Parts of the city still lay in ruins.

But Najaf’s violence now is aimed at Shiite pilgrims, adding to sectarian tensions that escalated over the last year.,,-6293597,00.html


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