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The BBC's Mandy Baker
"Tens of thousands of worshippers gathered to offer prayers"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 27 December, 2000, 13:42 GMT
Muslims mark end of fast
Muslim revellers in Jakarta
Indonesians have been celebrating hard despite police warnings
Muslims around the world are on Wednesday celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the festival to mark the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

This year, Eid al-Fitr falls in the same week as the Christmas holiday for Christians, and the Jewish festival of Hanukkah - a coincidence that only happens every few decades.

Indonesian women praying
Women in Jakarta have been praying for peace
The King of Morocco used the occasion to grant pardons to hundreds of prisoners.

But in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, thousands of troops have been mobilised in case of unrest following the bomb attacks in several cities against Christian churches on Sunday in which at least 14 people were killed.

Breaking the fast

Ramadan is a month of religious devotion and fasting, marking the time the Prophet Mohammad is believed to have had the Koran revealed to him by God.

It is celebrated by most of the world's one billion Muslims.

Eid el-Fitr is the festival of the breaking of the fast, which takes place 29 or 30 days after the start of Ramadan depending on when the moon is first sighted.

Man in market
A Palestinian man buys cakes for the feast
It is traditional to wear new clothes and to give presents to children. Families gather for special meals and go on visits.

It is also a time to think about the poor and to give money and clothes to those less fortunate.

Many leaders grant amnesties to prisoners at the festival.

On this occasion, Morocco's King Mohammed VI provided full or partial pardons to 999 inmates, of whom 403 will be released from jail.

Security alert

In Indonesia, the mood was also one of forgiveness, with Muslim leaders apologising to Christians for failing to protect them against church bombings on Christmas Eve.

"This is shameful because the bombings occurred in the midst of a community that is majority Islam," religious elder Kyai Haji Zainuddin told crowds in central Jakarta.

But tens of thousands of police were put on alert nonetheless in the city and across the country amid fears of retaliation by Christians.

And tensions were high in Pakistan, which celebrates Eid on Thursday, with increased security following a spate of bombings in which 45 people were wounded.

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See also:

27 Dec 00 | Middle East
In pictures: End of Ramadan
01 Dec 00 | Middle East
Cyber-alms for Ramadan
27 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Security tight for Eid celebrations
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