Tight Security as Thousands Make Annual Iraq Pilgrimage

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Thousands of pilgrims dressed in black made their way on foot towards a gold-domed shrine in northwestern Baghdad on Saturday, part of a weeklong procession to commemorate the death of a revered figure in Shiite Islam.

Most streets in the Iraqi capital were closed due to the large number of pilgrims descending on Baghdad from mainly southern and central provinces. Tents were set up along the route leading to the shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, who died at the end of the eighth century.

A high number of Iraqi security forces were deployed to protect the annual pilgrimage, expected to culminate Sunday morning. The event usually draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world each year to Baghdad. Very few pilgrims wore masks.

Vehicles were banned in the mainly Shia area of Kadhimya, where the shrine is located. The religious festival marks the anniversary of the death in the 8th Century of Moussa al-Kadhim, the seventh of the 12 Shiite imams.

The march comes amid Iraqi frustration with political leaders who have been unable to form a government, more than four months since Iraqis voted in general elections