Iraq has lifted a ban on nearly 500 candidates barred from the March election for alleged links to the late Saddam Hussein's Baathist party. The ban was lifted by an appeals panel on candidates listed last month by the post-Saddam Justice and Accountability Committee, the BBC reports quoting election officials.
The repeal of the ban will particularly be welcomed by Sunni politicians, as they happened to be the main target of the ban. In fact the ban was endangering the March elections, as it thratened the participation of Sunni muslims altogether.
"The appeals panel decided to allow the banned candidates to participate in the next election and decided to postpone looking into the case until after the election," said Hamdiya al-Husseini, a member of the Independent High Electoral Commission. She said successful candidates on the list would not be able to assume office until the appeals panel had given a final ruling on their cases. The ban was lifted after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had specifically asked for it, saying the commission's decision might not have been legal as it was not approved by parliament.
Meanwhile at least 23 Shia pilgrims were killed and 140 others injured in a new bomb attack, this time in the holy city of Kerbala in central Iraq. The attack follows a similar deadly incident on Monday in Baghdad. Today´s attack was the work of a suicide bomber on a motorcycle who detonated explosives in a crowded area, Iraqi police sources told Al Jazeera. The bomb exploded in an area known as Ibrahimia near the east entrance - one of three - into Karbala, about 80km south of Baghdad.Witnesses described widespread panic as people tried to carry the dead and wounded through a thick crowd of pilgrims packed shoulder to shoulder Some hours earlier, two separate roadside bombs targeting the pilgrims exploded in Baghdad, killing one and wounding seven others, a security official in the Iraqi capital said.
On Monday, at least 54 people were killed and more than 100 injured in an attack on the pilgrims by a female suicide bomber who blew herself up inside a tent in Baghdad, where drinks were servied to the pelgrims.There were security guards searching the people who entered the tent, but the bomber who had the bom hidden under her chador, blew herself up before she could be checked.
The latest incidents raise fears of a spike in attacks by suspected Sunni insurgents when the pilgrimage culminates on Friday. Arbaeen is a Shia religious observation that occurs 40 days after the Day of Ashura, the commemoration of the martyrdom of Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Thousands take part in marches to the Tomb of Hussein in Kerbala, in spite of the fact that also last year the pilgrims were the target of attacks.Thousands of troops and police have been deployed to protect the worshippers during their journey.