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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 January 2008, 15:17 GMT
In pictures: Ashura ceremonies

Men lighting candles in Kabul mosque 18/1/08

Shia Muslims around the world have been holding ceremonies to mark Ashura.

Men in Karbala dressed as troops from the Battle of Karbala

The ceremonies mark the death in battle of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in the year 680. Here, residents of Karbala in Iraq re-enact that battle.

Man on horseback dressed in armour holding child aloft 18/1/2008

His death at the hands of the Caliph Yezid was the defining moment that sealed the schism between Shia and Sunni Islam.

Man praying in Kabul mosque 18/1/08

Ashura is a time of reflection and sorrow, which culminates over the weekend on the 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram.

Men in Kirkuk beating their chests 18/1/08

During remembrance ceremonies, Shias beat their heads and chests to echo the suffering of Imam Hussein.

Iranians stand in mud pond in Khorramabad

One ritual is the Kharrah Mali, or mud-rubbing, in which devotees roll in mud, dry themselves by a fire and then flagellate themselves.

Men whipping themselves in Tehran 18/1/08

Self-flagellation with chain whips is a common ritual.

Sculpture of Imam Hussein's head in Najaf

In another ceremony, men cut their scalps with machetes in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.

Man cooking in open-air Kabul kitchen 18/1/08

Food, often prepared in community kitchens like this one in Kabul, is handed out free after prayers have taken place.

Men cutting meat in Najaf 18/1/08

In Najaf, Iraq, men cut up meat which will feed some of the many pilgrims who have descended on the holy city.

Woman pilgrims in Khorramabad 18/1/08

In Khorramabad, Iran, women mark the day before Ashura ends by walking without any shoes on between sacred sites dotted across the city.

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