BAGHDAD -- Gunmen opened fire on more Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims making their way yesterday to a major religious festival in southern Iraq, killing one person and fueling fears that insurgents may target the gathering that draws hundreds of thousands of people every year.
The latest ambush, near Mahaweel, about 35 miles south of Baghdad, also wounded two pilgrims, police Captain Muthana al-Furati said. Attacks on pilgrims Monday killed four people, including two police officers guarding pilgrims.
Roads across Iraq were crowded with Shi'ites heading to the holy city of Karbala to celebrate today's Arbaeen festival. The holiday marks the end of a 40-day mourning period for one of the most important saints in Shi'ism, Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed killed in a seventh-century battle.
Wearing white coffin shrouds signaling their readiness for martyrdom, tens of thousands of supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who led uprisings against the US-led forces in Iraq last year, paraded through the streets of Karbala on the eve of the Arbaeen.
''We're the Mahdi Army. We came to you, oh Hussein," they chanted while snaking through the city. Some held photos of Sadr and waved swords, and others beat their chests with their fists in a sign of mourning. The Mahdi Army is Sadr's militia.
Also yesterday, Al-Jazeera satellite television aired a tape said to show three kidnapped Romanian journalists and a fourth unidentified person, guns pointed at their heads. The station said the four were being held by an unidentified group and no demands were made. The tape's authenticity could not be verified.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said last night that a US citizen was taken hostage with the Romanians, but released no further information.
The tape appeared a day after Romania's government, which has 800 soldiers in Iraq, said three journalists were abducted near their Baghdad hotel Monday.
The US military said yesterday that a US Marine en route to Qaim in western Iraq died when his vehicle hit a land mine. The Marine's identity was not released.
In northern Mosul, four insurgents opened fire at a US checkpoint yesterday and were killed by soldiers, police official Ahmed Mohamed Khalaf Al-Jibori said. The gunmen killed six Iraqis, hospital official Essam Abdul Wahed said.
The US military said that it had no information on the clash but that three suspected insurgents were killed in a clash in Mosul after soldiers stopped a taxi that exploded, injuring five soldiers.