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Iraqi Shi'ites March To Observe Ashura

18 February 2005 -- Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims marched through the streets of Baghdad today to mark Ashura, one of the most important dates in their religious calendar.

Many in the crowd were dressed in black, and some beat themselves with chains for mourning. Others carried green banners bearing the name Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad whose death in a battle in 680 A.D. is remembered at Ashura.

The ceremony climaxes tomorrow, with huge crowds expected to congregate in Kerbala and Baghdad.

Iraq has shut its land borders to pilgrims until 22 February to bolster security during the event. During Ashura last year, more than 170 people were killed in suicide bombings on pilgrims in Baghdad and Karbala.