BAGHDAD, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. embassy in Iraq on Sunday restricted movement of its employees during the major Shiite ritual of Ashura, which will start on Tuesday.
A security alert statement on the embassy website said the measure is taken during the month of Muharram, "particularly around the commemoration of Ashura, on Tuesday, Sept. 18 through Friday, Sept. 21 due to expected road closures and unpredictable crowds."
Muslims around the world honor the holy month of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic lunar calendar, while Shiite Muslims used to make their own communal rituals during the first ten days of the Muharram ahead of Ashura ritual, or the 10th day of Muharram.
Meanwhile, the security alert cautioned the U.S. consulate employees in Iraq's southern city of Basra that "some protests in Basra have turned violent, leading to deaths and injuries to protesters and security forces."
However, it said that its U.S. employees "are generally avoiding any area where demonstrations could occur, including the Basra central business district."
During the past week, hundreds of angry demonstrators burned the Iranian consulate, provincial government buildings, offices of leading political parties and headquarters of some Shiite militias in protest of wide-spread corruption, poor public services, unemployment and water contamination in the province.
Several millions of Shiite Muslims from Iraq and neighboring Iran will rally in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, some 110 km south of Baghdad, to commemorate Ashura, which marks the death of Imam Hussein, Prophet Mohammed's grandson, who was killed and buried in the city in A.D. 680.