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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 September 2006, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
In pictures: Karbala festival

Iraqi pilgrims spray foam as they arrive in Karbala

Hundreds of thousands of Shia Muslims descended on the holy Iraqi city of Karbala for a religious festival.

Pilgrims gather outside a mosque in Karbala before dawn

Pilgrims were marking the birthday of the 9th century Imam Mahdi, one of the main Imams of Shia Islam.

Pilgrims light candles at the Imam Mahdi shrine in Karbala

The event is meant to be one of celebration.

Shia Muslims pray inside the Imam Abbas Shrine in Karbala

But such festivals have been targeted by Sunni insurgents in the past. The threat of an attack loomed large.

Iraqi army soldiers patrol Karbala

Security was tight with thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers deployed across the city.

Iraqi soldiers frisk pilgrims entering a mosque in Karbala

Vehicles were banned from the city centre as soldiers monitored who came in and out.

People take tea from a street stall in Karbala

The festival attracts people from across the world. Many Iraqis had made the journey to Karbala by foot.

Women carry flowers in Karbala

As pilgrims left the city on Saturday evening, police said there had been no security breaches during the festivities.

Pilgrims light candles to mark the birth of one of Shia Islam's founders

But a number of pilgrims were killed in suspected insurgent attacks as they made their way to Karbala earlier in the week.




SEE ALSO
Security tight at Iraqi festival
09 Sep 06 |  Middle East
Fervour tinged with fear at Karbala
08 Sep 06 |  Middle East

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