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Pilgrims defy ISIL militants flocking to Kerbala in record numbers

One person has been killed by rocket fire in the Iraqi city of Kerbala where Shi’ite pilgrims gathered for religious ceremonies. Despite the threat

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Pilgrims defy ISIL militants flocking to Kerbala in record numbers

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One person has been killed by rocket fire in the Iraqi city of Kerbala where Shi’ite pilgrims gathered for religious ceremonies.

Point of view

We heard that ISIL had said that Iranians would not be able to come...so we decided to come in large numbers.

Despite the threat of violence, pilgrims have flocked to celebrate Arbain from all over the world. The visitor figure is expected to hit 20 million, with Iranians coming in record numbers.

“Before the start of the rituals, we heard that ISIL had said that Iranians would not be able to come again,” began Iranian pilgrim Jamal Ghaffar.

“Therefore, we Iranians decided to come in large numbers, exceeding the numbers of previous years. Iraq’s embassy in Iran was unable to issue visas for such large numbers. The number of people at the border points is almost 100 times more than previous years,” he explained.

It is the first time the ceremony is taking place since ISIL fighters took over large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi authorities stressed the recent victory against the militants in Jurf al-Sakhr was crucial to making the pilgrimage possible.