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Muslims In South Asia, Iran, Iraq Begin Eid al-Adha Festival

A Shi'ite Muslim man prays during Eid in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala
(RFE/RL) -- Hundreds of millions of Muslims in South Asia, Iran, and Iraq have begun celebrating Eid al-Adha with large prayer services and ritual sacrifice of animals.

The majority of Muslims in the Middle East and worldwide started the festival on November 27.

The three-day Festival of Sacrifice, or Eid-al-Adha, comes toward the end of the hajj, the obligatory Islamic pilgrimage. The festival begins immediately after the Day of Arafat, when those performing the hajj in Mecca spend the day at Arafat, 15 kilometers east of the holy city. The festival is observed not only by the pilgrims themselves, but also Muslims around the world.

On the hajj today, around 2 million Muslim pilgrims began a second round of symbolically stoning the devil in a narrow valley in Saudi Arabia as the hajj pilgrimage nears its end.

The festival of Eid-al-Adha commemorates the story of Abraham's willingness to obediently offer his own son to God. Muslims remember Abraham's trials by slaughtering an animal such as a cow, camel, goat, or sheep.

In Bangladesh, where Muslims are celebrating Eid today, devotee Farhad Hossain explained that a sacrificial slaughtering in the name of God would follow the prayers.

"Now we have just finished our Eid prayer session; we pray to the Almighty for the peace and prosperity of Bangladesh and for Muslims around the world,” Hossain said. "Now we are ready for Kurbani [sacrificial slaughtering]. We are going home to slaughter animals in the name of Allah."

Muslims in Kazan, Tatarstan, carry a sheep to be sacrificed for Eid.
On the evening of November 26, thousands of people began scrambling to leave the Bangladeshi capital for their home provinces to celebrate Eid al-Adha with relatives.

A rush of commuters caused huge traffic jams in Dhaka, while bus and train stations were packed with people heading for the three-day holiday.

Late on November 27, at least 30 people died and many others were reported missing after a ferry with several hundred passengers going home for the festival sank in a river mouth 300 kilometers south of the capital.

High Security

In Pakistan, where more than 90 percent of the 160 million people practice Islam, Eid al-Adha is an occasion for immense enjoyment for people from all walks of life.

This time, however, celebrations are muted because of the security situation in the country. Security personnel were on high alert today as Pakistanis assembled to offer Eid prayers in mosques across the country.

This month alone there have been eight suicide bomb attacks -- six of them in the northwest border city of Peshawar -- in which about 110 people have been killed.

Fears of similar attacks during the three-day Eid festival, especially during prayer assemblies, have led to a tightening of security around mosques and other gathering points.

Mohammad Khalid, a worshipper in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, expressed satisfaction over the security measures put in place by the government.

"Today we offered Eid prayers under very good security arrangements," Khalid said. "The result was that there was no fear at all and everyone prayed with full concentration and peace of mind. There was a great sense of enthusiasm after the prayers."

The northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar has borne the brunt of the attacks this month. The usually bustling city was subdued today as many mourned their loved ones killed or injured in the recent bomb attacks.