KARBALA, Iraq, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Iraqi security forces arrested 66 members of an al-Qaida affiliate planning attacks against Shia Muslims, a security chief said.
The members of a terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq were rounded up Sunday in a sweep in the Iraqi central province of Karbala, Staff Lt. Gen. Othman al-Ghanimi, head of al-Furat al-Awsat operations command told the Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
He added police seized weapons and munitions in the sweep.
The group was formerly led by Jordanian militant Abu Musad al-Zarqawi, killed in June 2006, and allegedly was planning attacks against Shia Muslims marking Arbaeen, a religious observance which includes a pilgrimage to Karbala, the Iraqi Press TV reported Monday.
Ghanimi said 35,000 soldiers have been deployed to Karbala, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Baghdad, to provide security for the Arbaeen ceremonies Jan. 3.