KARBALA / Aswat al-Iraq: Terrorist groups plan to make booby-trapped Quraan in Karbala to target Shiite pilgrims, the local police department said on Thursday.
"Intelligence information indicated that terrorist groups started to booby-trap Quraan to target Shiite visitors in Karbala," Colonel Ahmad Mohammad al-Hasnawi, from Karbala police department, told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
"Police vehicles are warning Shiites using loudspeakers and leaflets against receiving presents from unknown bodies," he added.
Iraq's holy shrine city of Karbala was gearing up for the climax of annual Shiite mourning rituals, with millions of pilgrims thronging the city amid tightened security.
Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.
The battle near Karbala is at the heart of the historical division with Islam's Sunni and Shiite sects, a split that fuelled sectarian violence between Iraq's majority Shiite and smaller Sunni population since the 2003 US-led invasion.
Shiite pilgrims visiting Karbala are regularly targeted in attacks by Sunni extremists.
This year marks the second time Iraqi troops are solely charged with security for Arbaeen since the US-led invasion of 2003.
American troops, who previously helped with surveillance and reconnaissance, completed their withdrawal from Iraq last month.
Shiites make up around 15 percent of Muslims worldwide.
They represent the majority populations in Iraq, Iran and Bahrain and form significant communities in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.