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Millions Defy Threat Of Attacks To Perform Shi'ite Rituals In Iraqi City

Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims gather during the Arbaeen religious festival in Karbala on December 13.

Millions of Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims defied the threat of attacks by Sunni extremist militants on December 13 and thronged the streets of the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala for the climax of annual Arbaeen mourning rituals.

Some walked for more than 12 days from Iraq's far south or across the border from Iran to reach the celebrations.

Arbaeen marks the end of a 40-day mourning period for the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson and the first Imam of Shi'a Islam.

Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi said more than 17 million pilgrims will have gone through Karbala for Arbaeen this year, including more than four million foreigners from 60 countries.

Security concerns were raised on December 12 when a rocket fired from the northern side of Karbala killed a man in the city and wounded four others.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP