HOLY CITY OF KARBALA, Iraq: Karbala governorate council announced
that more than four million people descended on the holy city of
Karbala on Friday December 17 to commemorate Ashoura al-Imam
Al-Hussein (AS) amid tight security.
Mourners from across Iraq, along with tens of thousands of foreign
pilgrims -- most dressed in black -- streamed into Karbala to mark the
darkest day of human history when some 1400 years ago Sibt an-Nabi
(son of Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him and his holy progeny)
al-Imam Abi Abdellah Al-Hussein (AS) was brutally and unjustly
slaughtered at the hands of the then ruler Yazid.
Marking Ashoura, the mourners beat their heads and chests and gash
their heads with swords to mourn the slaying of Imam Hussein (AS).
Security officials assigned thousands of police officers and soldiers
to protect the pilgrims as they headed to Hussein's shrine in Karbala,
80 km (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad. Authorities imposed a city-wide
ban on cars and motorcycles to help prevent attacks.
Securing the event was a key test for Iraqi security forces, who
have taken over responsibility for protecting the country as U.S.
troops withdraw 7-1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion and with no
new government in place nine months after an inconclusive
"More than 28,000 police officers have been deployed to protect
pilgrims in addition to the troops that support security in the towns
around Karbala," Major-General Othman al-Ghanimi, chief commander of
the Iraqi army in Kerbala, told Reuters.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki thanked the security forces.