In Iraq’s holy city of Kerbala, Shi’ite Muslims gathered for the annual Ashura religious commemoration have, for the moment, been spared the violent attacks that have marked pilgrimages in the past.
In the northern Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya, many of the Shi’ites observing the mourning rituals have already fled ISIL extremists who have taken over their towns and cities. Security forces have been deployed to try to keep participants safe.
Despite a high alert in Iraq, there was bloodshed in the run-up to this year’s Ashura, with dozens of pilgrims killed in Baghdad.
In the past, suicide bombers posing as pilgrims have infiltrated large crowds.
Ten years ago, suspected al Qaeda suicide bombers and mortar attacks killed more than 170 people in the capital and Kerbala.