Millions of Shia pilgrims on Saturday gathered in Karbala to commemorate the Arbaeen, marking the passage of 40 days following the martyrdom of Imam Hossein and 72 companions in the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE. The Shias lost the battle to the army of Yazid I, the Caliph of the Umayyad. The worshippers marched for three days from the Shia holy city of Najaf to reach Karbala and Imam Hossein Shrine on Arbaeen.
Iraqi police said a mortar attack killed one person and wounded four others near Karbala on Friday. There are fortunately no reports of major clashes or casualties during today’s ceremonies. This year’s Arbaeen commemorations come as the Islamic State controls large portions of Anbar province, bordering Karbala. ISIL considers Shias to be heretic and has targeted Shia community in Iraq.
Photo credit: Shia faithful pilgrims gather between the holy shrines of Imam Hussein and of Imam Abbas, in the background, during the preparations for the commemoration of Arbaeen in the Shia holy city of Karbala; Friday, 12 December 2014. (Hadi Mizban/AP)