Hundreds of thousands of frenzied Shiites beat their heads and chests in unison and whipped themselves with chains Saturday across Iraq to honor the martyrdom of one of their most revered saints. The processions were marred by violence with a deadly bombing in northern Iraq and clashes south of Baghdad.
The street battles between members of a messianic cult and Iraqi troops raged for a second day as the death toll from the fighting in two predominantly Shiite southern cities rose from 50 to at least 68.
Iraqi authorities said at least 36 people were reported killed in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, and at least 32 in Nasiriyah, including Iraqi security forces, civilians and gunmen. At least 10 people were reported slain in Nasiriyah Friday.
Video footage broadcast on Iraqi state TV showed several dead or wounded men lying on bloodstained streets in Basra, where officials said the situation was under control. An Iraqi soldier held the yellow bandanna of one man, apparently signifying that he was a member of the Soldiers of Heaven cult.
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