Baghdad (AP) - A local Iraqi official says thousands of Shiites are rallying in the holy city of Karbala against troops sent from Sunni Arab states to Bahrain to help the tiny island's Sunni monarchy deal with Shiite-led opposition protesters.
Karbala provincial councilman Hussein Shadhan al-Aboudi says about 3,000 people gathered Thursday on the clearing between the city's two Shiite holy shrines. He says larger demonstrations in Baghdad and Shiite-dominated cities in Iraq's south are planned for after Friday prayers.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said he fears that anti-riot Saudi and United Arab Emirates forces deployed in Bahrain will inflame sectarian violence in the Mideast.
Two prominent Iraqi Shiite clerics have criticized Bahrain's crackdown against protesters.