Shi'ites throng Iraq shrine city for Arbaeen
KARBALA, Iraq (AFP) - Shi'ite 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 Shi'ite community in recent weeks.
Arbaeen marks 40 days after the Ashura anniversary commemorating the slaying of Imam Hussein, one of Shi'ite 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.