Shi’ite Muslims are preparing to mark their holy day of Ashura this Sunday.
This commemorates the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, Imam Hussein.
The faithful all over the Islamic world, from Afghanistan to Kerbala in Iraq where it happened, observe mourning rituals leading up to Ashura.
Dozens of Hussein’s comrades were also slain by armies of Caliph Yazid.
The battle, more than 13 centuries ago, set up the division of Shi’ites and Sunnis. Shi’ites make up nearly 15 per cent of the world’s Muslims.
In spite of increased security for Christmas Day and Ashura, 18 people were killed in attacks across Iraq.
Some 46,000 policemen and soldiers have been deployed in the Shi’ite shrine cities of Najaf and Kerbala.