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Karbala Registers Record Number of Pilgrims
International

Karbala Registers Record Number of Pilgrims

Millions of Shia Muslim pilgrims defied the threat of militant attacks and thronged the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala for the climax of annual Arbaeen mourning rituals on Saturday.

Some had walked for more than 12 days, from Iraq's far south or across the border from Iran, the AFP reported.

Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi said a total of 17 million will have gone through Karbala for Arbaeen this year, including more than four million foreigners from 60 countries.

A sea of devotees descended on the city to reach the shrine of Imam Hussein.

A mortar attack that killed one person on Friday highlighted the huge security concerns surrounding what is believed to be one of the largest religious gatherings in the world.

But the pilgrims were undeterred.

   

The head of Karbala operations command, brigadier General Qais Khalaf

Rahim, said the number of security personnel in Karbala was hiked by 15,000 to

40,000 following the mortar attack.

Turnout estimates were hard to verify independently but all officials seemed to agree this Arbaeen was the largest they had ever seen. Some southern towns and cities looked emptied of their population.

Rahim command chief said new access roads had to be opened to handle the flow of pilgrims converging on Karbala, a medium-sized city around 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Baghdad.

 

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