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Security tight for Baghdad pilgrimage

Nine dead in Baquba violence

By CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

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Iraqi Shiites taking part in the pilgrimage in Baghdad.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Security was tight in Baghdad on Saturday as thousands of Shiite Muslim pilgrims walked through the capital to commemorate the death of a revered 8th century imam -- Musa al-Kadhim.

A vehicle and cycle ban was in force from late Friday until early Monday to help stem car bombings and drive-by shootings in a city where Sunni-Shiite sectarian strife has been ongoing.

However, deaths were reported. Seven Shiite pilgrims were shot and killed late Friday in the Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Adil in western Baghdad.

Shiites came from Baghdad neighborhoods and southern Shiite provinces and converged on the imam's shrine in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of northern Baghdad.

Al-Kadhim -- one of the 12 historic Shiite imams beloved by the faithful -- is buried at the Kadhimiya mosque, the largest Shiite mosque in the capital.

The pilgrims waved black flags standing for sadness and green flags standing for the 12 imams.

The pilgrimage reaches a climax on Sunday, when the imam's 799 A.D. death is observed.

Nearly 1,000 pilgrims were killed during last year's commemoration when rumors of suicide bombers triggered a mass stampede on a Tigris River bridge.

Iraqi security forces established more checkpoints and patrols in all over Baghdad and especially on the roads and streets that lead to Kadhimiya neighborhood.

Members of the Mehdi Army -- who back anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr established temporary checkpoints to search pilgrims one by one to stop bombs or suicide attackers from killing Shiite pilgrims.

An Iraqi government statement said it is forbidden to carry weapons, cell phones and any type of bags into the shrine and army officials were searching people in the streets.

Meanwhile, attackers killed nine people on Saturday in scattered incident around the volatile city of Baquba in Iraq, authorities told CNN.

Nine people were wounded in the strikes, according to an official with the Diyala Joint Coordination Center. Two professors from Diyala University and a worker from the Iraqi Human Rights Association were among those killed.

The incidents took place over a 12-hour period. Baquba -- which has a mixed population including Sunnis and Shiites -- is the capital of Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad. It has endured a lot of violence, both sectarian and insurgent, for a long time.

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