Iraqi Shi’ites mark Ashura without incident, Saudis scuffle in Medina

By Reuters Staff
December 19, 2010

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(Photo: Pilgrims gather between Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein shrines to mark Ashura in Kerbala, December 17, 2010/Mushtaq Muhammad)

More than two million Shi’ite pilgrims in Iraq’s holy city of Kerbala marked Ashura, commemorating the slaying of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein at the battle of Kerbala in 680, with no major violence reported amid tight security. But Saudi security forces dispersed crowds of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims after scuffles broke out in the holy city of Medina.

Shi’ites from across Iraq, along with thousands of foreign pilgrims — most dressed in black — streamed into Kerbala for the emotive ritual on Friday in which the faithful beat their heads and chests and gash themselves with chains and swords to mourn the event that defines Shi’ism and its split from Sunni Islam.

“According to official statistics, there are more than two million Iraqi pilgrims and 248,000 foreign pilgrims who have entered Kerbala city,” said Mohammed al-Moussawi, head of the Kerbala provincial council.

Security officials assigned thousands of police officers and soldiers to protect the pilgrims as they headed to Hussein’s shrine in Kerbala, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad. Authorities imposed a city-wide ban on cars and motorcycles to help prevent attacks. Read the full story here.

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(Photo: Saudi Shi’ites mark Ashura in Qatif December 16, 2010/Zaki Ghawas)

In Saudi Arabia, the Shi’ite website Rasid.com said a group of Sunnis had attacked several Shiites with stones late on Thursday as they were outside commemorating Ashoura in Medina, Islam’s second holiest city. A local Shiite resident also confirmed the incident to Reuters. He said it had occurred near the landmark Quba Mosque.

“Security forces arrived to disperse the crowd,” the journalist said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There has been heavy security presence in Medina since then, with police patrolling streets.” Read the full story here.

Here’s a Reuters video on Ashua:

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