BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi authorities banned private vehicles from Baghdad streets starting Friday night to prevent attacks during a major Shiite religious ceremony marking the death of a Shiite saint.
The ban, which runs from 9 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Monday, will affect about 16 neighborhoods on both sides of the Tigris river, the government said in a statement.
The ceremony marks the death in 799 A.D. of Imam Moussa Kadhim, one of the 12 major Shiite saints. He is buried in Baghdad's Kazimiyah district.
About 1,000 people were killed during last year's commemoration of Imam Kadhim's death when rumors of suicide bombers triggered a stampede on a bridge over the Tigris River. It was the biggest single day's death toll since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
The ceremony, which is expected to bring tens of thousands of Shiites from across the country, reaches its high point Sunday.