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Death Toll Rises In Karbala And Baghdad Blasts

Prague, 2 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Over 100 people have been killed in bomb blasts in Karbala and the Iraqi capital Baghdad as Shi'ite Muslims mark one of the holiest days of the year.

Reports have said that the death toll could reach 75 people in Baghdad and around 50 in Karbala, where hospital doctors say it could rise to 100 as more casualties flood in.

Hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite Muslims are marching in Karbala to honor the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

The marchers went through the city streets, beating their heads and chests, chopping gashes into the tops of their heads, and letting the blood flow down their faces. All this was done to show their grief.

Imam Hussein was beheaded by his enemies in A.D. 680 in Iraq.

Under the regime of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, public processions in memory of Imam Hussein's martyrdom were banned.

Today, the ceremony drew faithful from all over Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and other countries.

In Baghdad, reports say the blasts took place in a Shi'ite district almost simultaneously with explosions in Karbala.

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