Gunbattles raged between rival Shi'ite militias after nightfall Tuesday, despite a police-ordered curfew in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala, where more than one million pilgrims have been ordered to leave after two days of violence claimed at least 35 lives during a Shi'ite religious festival.
Security officials told The Associated Press that Mahdi Army gunmen, loyalists of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, began attacking guards around the two Karbala shrines that were under the protection of the Badr Brigade, the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.
In telephone calls to reporters in Karbala, heavy gunfire could be heard as well as the explosion of mortar shells.
The security officials, who demanded anonymity for security reasons, said at least 180 people have been wounded. They include women and children.