Ashura procession in Baghdad (epa)
9 February 2006 -- Tens of thousands of Iraqis marched today in processions through the holy city of Karbala and other Shi'ite centers across Iraq to mourn a seventh-century martyr.
Shi'a descended on Karbala, where Imam Hussein is believed buried, to take part in ceremonies marking the major festival of Ashura.
About 20,000 people marched between the Hussein shrine and another dedicated to his brother, Abbas, about 1 kilometer away.
Some slapped chains across their backs until their clothes were soaked with blood, while others beat their heads with the flat side of swords and knives.
Hussein was the grandson of Islam's Prophet Muhammad and was killed by rivals for leadership of the Muslim community, during a 680 A.D. battle in Karbala.
Hussein's death cemented the split in Islam between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.
Authorities hope to prevent Sunni Arab suicide bombers targeting the event as they have done during the previous two years.