Iraq blames Iran after thousands of pilgrims storm border crossing

BAGHDAD Iraq’s interior ministry blamed Iranian authorities on Monday for permitting tens of thousands of Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims to storm a border crossing and enter the nation with no visas, in a rare public confrontation amongst the two neighbors.

The ministry stated in a statement that the pilgrims, traveling on foot toward the Shi’ite shrine city of Karbala to take element in the annual Arbaeen religious ritual, overwhelmed safety forces on Sunday, pulling down fences and injuring border guards.

It accused them of deliberately rushing the border crossing in order to pressure security forces to allow them to enter illegally, and it said the border guards had refrained from working out their correct to use force against them.

“We hold the Iranian side responsible due to the fact they did not fulfill their duties and obligations” to avert these without visas from approaching the crossing, the ministry said.

Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government is heavily backed by Iran, which also gives coaching, arms and cash to Iraq’s effective Shi’ite militias, noticed as a bulwark in the battle against Islamic State militants in the country’s north and west.

Numerous major Shi’ite politicians in Iraq like former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki developed close ties with Iran although living in exile there in the course of the rule of Saddam Hussein, from the Sunni minority, who brutally repressed Shi’ites before he was toppled by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Video posted online on Monday appeared to show hundreds of pilgrims dressed from head to toe in black forcing open a big gate and running through the checkpoint. Few safety forces appeared to be present.

Reuters could not independently verify the footage.

1 local official said the quantity of pilgrims who entered Iraq illegally at the Zurbatiya crossing had exceeded half a million.

Kut governor Malik Khalaf referred to as the incident “an infringement of Iraqi sovereignty”.

Hundreds of Iranian pilgrims every single day obtain $ 30 entry visas to pay a visit to southern Iraq, where the most revered shrines in Shi’ite Islam are positioned.

The pilgrims this week are partaking in Arbaeen, the end of a 40-day mourning period following the commemoration of the death in battle of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein in 680.

Hussein’s death entrenched the schism amongst Shi’ites and Sunnis which has sharply divided Iraq for years.

The sectarian conflict gripping Iraq, mostly among the Sunni minority and the now dominant Shi’ites, has been exacerbated by the rise of the ultra-hardline Sunni militants of Islamic State.

(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Stephen Kalin Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Agen Sabung Ayam