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Iraq Transition

20 pilgrims killed, hundreds wounded in Baghdad

Second Hussein trial starts Monday
A Mehdi Army militiaman watches Shiite pilgrims Sunday.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gunmen opened fire on crowds of Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad Sunday, killing at least 20 and wounding more than 300 others, according to police and health ministry officials.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims crowded the streets of the Iraqi capital, heading to the shrine of an eighth century imam, Musa al-Kadhim, to commemorate his death.

Gunmen on the streets and snipers from the rooftops opened fire on the crowds in six Baghdad neighborhoods, police said. (Watch chaos and carnage among pilgrims -- 1:00)

Aware that this weekend's pilgrimage would be an opportunity for sectarian attacks, Iraqi authorities instituted a vehicle and cycle ban from late Friday to early Monday to try to prevent car bombings and drive-by shootings in a city where Sunni-Shiite sectarian strife has killed thousands. (Full story)

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

Last year, nearly 1,000 pilgrims were killed during the commemoration when rumors of suicide bombers triggered a mass stampede on a Tigris River bridge.

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.

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.

In two other attacks in Baghdad, gunmen opened fire on Iraqi police patrols, wounding two officers in one incident and four in the other, a Baghdad emergency police official said.

Meanwhile, in the northern Iraqi city of Baquba, two brothers were killed in a a drive-by shooting Sunday morning, according to an official with the Diyala Joint Coordination Center.

In a separate attack, another pair of brothers -- both members of the police -- were killed in a shooting, and their father was wounded, as they walked down the street in southern Baquba, the official said.

Iraq tribunal under scrutiny

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein will go on trial Monday accused of genocide and crimes against humanity in the so-called Anfal campaign of 1988.

The deadly assaults in the Kurdish region included the former regime's alleged use of poison gas. (Full story)

It is believed that about 100,000 Kurds were killed and 3,000 villages destroyed in the operation. Those who survived were illegally detained and later executed.

Iraq's Kurds, who are seeking justice for the well-documented attacks, welcome the trial. But one major human rights watchdog group that has helped educate the world about the Anfal campaign worries that the tribunal won't do its victims justice.

Human Rights Watch -- which has tracked, documented and decried the Anfal campaign for years -- says the Iraqi tribunal is "incapable" of handling the proceeding fairly, judging from its performance during the ongoing Dujail trial.

On the other hand, U.S. officials say the tribunal officials learned a lot from their experiences during the Dujail proceeding and have improved their performance.

The Dujail trial, which began last October, focused on a government crackdown in 1982 against Shiites in Dujail, north of Baghdad, after a failed assassination attempt against Hussein there.

The crackdown resulted in the deaths of 148 Shiite males, the mistreatment of many residents and the destruction of property.

That trial adjourned last month, and resumes in mid-October, when verdicts are expected for Hussein and seven co-defendants, including Hussein's half-brother Barzan Hassan.

The Dujail proceeding was criticized by many observers for its delays, procedural problems and inadequate security for attorneys. Critics said Hussein and Hassan turned the trial into a circus with frequent interruptions and constant harangues.

The legal machinery for the Anfal case got rolling as the Dujail trial was ending.

Hussein and six co-defendants, including Ali Hassan al-Majeed, a former Iraqi general known as "Chemical Ali," are on trial in the Anfal case. "Anfal" means "spoils" in Arabic.

All face charges of war crimes related to an internal armed conflict and crimes against humanity. Hussein and al-Majeed have been charged with genocide.

CNN's Joe Sterling, Octavia Nasr, Nic Robertson and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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