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Baghdad bans cars during pilgrimage

By TIMES WIRES
Published August 19, 2006


BAGHDAD - With little warning, Iraq's government imposed a nearly three-day ban on vehicle traffic in the capital starting at dusk Friday, in preparation for what is expected to be millions of pilgrims converging Sunday at a shrine to mark the anniversary of the death of one of Shiite Islam's holiest figures.

The last-minute ban on all motorized traffic - excluding government and private security companies' vehicles - is part of what appears to be a concerted effort by Iraqi security forces to avoid the sectarian-inspired panic during last year's pilgrimage, when more than 950 people were killed.

Several army and other officials, including the defense minister, Abdul Qadr Mohammed Jassim, who appeared on television Friday to announce the ban, said other security measures would fall into place before Sunday.

Only two bridges will be open between eastern Baghdad, which is mostly Shiite, and the mostly Sunni western half of the city, Iraqi army officials said.

Violence against pilgrims had already started by Friday afternoon. Seven people driving toward the shrine were killed in the Adel neighborhood of western Baghdad when gunmen opened fire on their car, an Interior Ministry official said.

Friday, in anticipation of the second trial of Saddam Hussein, the International Center for Transitional Justice, a rights group based in New York, urged authorities here to avoid mistakes that it said marred Hussein's first trial.

The trial is scheduled to begin Monday. Hussein is charged with crimes against humanity for killing at least 50,000 people in 1988 in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Also Friday, a federal judge overturned on a technicality a $10-million jury verdict against military contractor Custer Battles LLC, accused of defrauding the U.S. government in the first months of the Iraq war. The award had been the first civil fraud verdict arising from the Iraq war.

Swiss court dismisses Holocaust suit against IBM

GENEVA - Switzerland's supreme court dismissed a lawsuit accusing IBM Corp. of aiding the Nazi Holocaust because too much time has elapsed, the Gypsy organization that filed the case said Friday.

Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action said it had been given notice of the decision by the Federal Tribunal in Lausanne that the statute of limitations applied to the case. The organization said the court's explanation would be released in several weeks.

The lawsuit was filed after U.S. author Edwin Black - in his 2001 book IBM and the Holocaust - said IBM's punch card machines were used to codify information about people sent to concentration camps.

IBM, one of the world's largest information technology services providers, also has consistently denied it was in any way responsible for the way its machines were used in the Holocaust.

[Last modified August 19, 2006, 01:37:25]


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