The seventh-century martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson brings Shiite Muslims into public places to show their devotion across the Islamic world for the rites of Ashura. The outpouring over the slaying of Imam Hossein in 680 AD builds to a crescendo this Sunday.
Kerbala, in Iraq, where the deed was done, is home to the shrine to the ‘Lord of Martyrs’, south of Baghdad. Iraq has tightened security to protect the pilgrims from Sunni Islamist militants. Kerbala’s governor said 20,000 troops and police had formed eight cordons around the city, with a thousand snipers andbomb-sniffing dogs.
A roadside bomb is said to have killed six pilgrims and wounded 17 in Sadr City, eastern Baghdad, on the eve of Ashura. Politicians have said they will not allow the ceremony to be used for pre-election propaganda.
In Srinagar, Kashmir, administered by Hindu-majority India, Shiites defied an insurgency ban on marching, police responded with force, and dozens of people were injured. Around 15 percent of the world’s Muslims are Shiite.