Iraq Shi'ites not making pilgrimage to Jordan site

Iraqi Shi'ites did not make their customary annual pilgrimage to a holy shine in southern Jordan on Sunday, amid rising Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim tensions following Saddam Hussein's execution. Hundreds of Shi'ites from Iraq as well as Iran usually visit the shrine of Jaafar bin Abi Taleb, one of the Prophet Muhammad's companions, in the town of Mazar for a sermon for Ashoura, which commemorates the 7th century death of Imam Hussein. His death began the schism between Sunnis and Shi'ites. "We were expecting some visitors, like last year's 1,500 visitors, tonight, but strangely, no one showed up," said a religious official at the site, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to make statements to the press. Following Saddam's Dec. 30 hanging, residents of the Mazar as well as the nearby city of Kerak threatened to avenge the former Iraqi dictator's death against Iraqi Shi'ites. They blamed the hanging of Saddam, a Sunni, on the Shi'ite-led government in Iraq.