First Published: 2013-01-03

 

Iraq Shiites flock to Karbala for Arbaeen

 

Shiite pilgrims throng shrine city for climax of Arbaeen mourning rituals amid tight security for fear of militant attacks.

 

Middle East Online

Marching to Karbala

KARBALA, Iraq - Shiite pilgrims from Iraq and around the world are to throng Iraq's shrine city of Karbala on Thursday for the climax of Arbaeen mourning rituals amid tight security for fear of militant attacks.

Over the past 10 days, the annual commemoration ceremonies are expected to have drawn up to 15 million pilgrims braving the threat of deadly violence by Sunni insurgents targeting the Shiite community in recent weeks.

Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures, by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.

Sad songs blared from loudspeakers throughout the city and black flags fluttered alongside pictures of Hussein and his half-brother Imam Abbas, both of whom are buried in the city.

"We are defying terrorism, and we are following the example of Karbala in sacrifice and redemption," said 40-year-old Mohammed Swadi, who noted that he had walked for 12 days from the southern port city of Basra for the occasion.

"This is not much when it comes to expressing our love for Imam Hussein."

Officials expect some 15 million worshippers to have passed through the city, which lies 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Baghdad, by the end of the commemorations.

Among them will be around 600,000 pilgrims from 30 different countries, leaving all of the city's 700 hotels packed to the brim.

The threat of insurgent attacks has spurred authorities to deploy 35,000 soldiers and policemen to Karbala, including 2,500 policewomen at checkpoints across the city, with aerial surveillance also watching over pilgrims.

Attacks on Shiites in just the past week have left at least 12 people dead, including an explosion along the route from Baghdad to Karbala on Wednesday that killed two pilgrims who were on the traditional walk to the shrine city.

Shiites make up around 15 percent of Muslims worldwide. They represent the majority populations in Iraq, Iran and Bahrain and form significant communities in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.

 

An extraordinary meeting: Gulf ministers agree to end tension with Qatar

US releases $450 million Iranian frozen assets

‘Retaliation is life’ group vows to attack Egypt security forces

Gunmen storm South Sudan UN base killing 20

Malaysia activists: Obama you are not welcome here!

Kidnappers of Tunisian diplomat demand jailed Libyans release

Landmine blasts Tunisia soldier amid growing jihadist threat

Marzouki sets an 'example' by cutting salary by two-thirds

Rouhani: Iran does not intend to be aggressive but can defend itself

Turkey to Russia: We demand a gas price revision

For Massacre-scarred Algeria village, peace is worth more than wealth

An act of heroism: Iraq policeman sacrifices himself to shield army recruits

UK ‘determined to catch’ killer of Libya embassy policewoman

Experts: Washington demanded removal of Saudi spy chief

Future of Algeria on wheelchair

Palestinians rally for solidarity with Israel-held prisoners

Turkey may clinch bid to dismantle Italy’s wrecked ship

Israeli, Palestinian negotiators to hold meeting with US envoy

UN ‘gravely concerned’ about South Sudan oil state fighting

South Sudan war: Child soldiers consumed by desire for retribution

Algerians casting their vote for president

Syria world’s most perilous country fro journalists

Egypt jails ex-presidential hopeful for fraud

Egypt leftist leader urges all revolutionary groups to unite

Jordan ‘destroyed’ combat vehicles entering from Syria

South Sudan army loses key oil town of Bentiu

Lebanon parliament soon to elect new president

Zarif to discuss Caspion Sea states in Russia

MERS spreading in Saudi Arabia

Algeria finally opens its piggybank to lure back exiled youth

Suicide bombs rock Ramadi government compound

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza blast

Peace talks delayed after Palestine blamed for fatal shooting

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Al-Aqsa

Undercover New York police unit that spied on Muslims disbanded

Washington will not issue visa for Iran UN envoy

British paedophile gets 20-year sentence in Morocco

Syria army fights its way into besieged Homs

Invisible Bouteflika urges Algerians to vote

Saudi Arabia replaces powerful intelligence chief

Benflis mobilizes ‘army’ to monitor Algeria election

Syria army advances on rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs

Egypt court bans any Brotherhood candidacies in upcoming elections

Turkey rights groups sound alarm at plan to build gay-only prisons

Kuwait coup plot video ‘neither genuine nor reliable’