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Friday, 17 March, 2000, 15:26 GMT
Eid fervour in South Asia

Thousands pray at Delhi's Jama Masjid mosque
Muslims throughout South Asia have been celebrating the festival of Eid al-Adha - the Feast of the Sacrifice.

The festival comes at the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

This is the day we wait for all the year

Kashmiri teenager Tariq Bhat
Devotees offered special morning prayers at mosques, while many people in Bangladesh and Pakistan left the capital cities to spend time with their families in their villages and towns.

Millions of goats, cows and sheep were slaughtered to commemorate the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God.

Peace and sacrifice

Political leaders called for peace and stability in the region, which is often racked with conflict, especially in the disputed region of Kashmir.

A baker does brisk business
In Pakistan, President Rafiq Tarar led prayers at Islamabad's Faisal Mosque, where thousands had gathered.

In a special Eid message, the country's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, said: "We should submit our individual interest to national interest for the sake of national integration, prosperity and strength."

In the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, thousands joined President Shahabuddin Ahmed in prayer.

This year, the festival coincided with the birthday of the country's founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Special morning prayers were held
Sheikh Mujibur's daughter Sheikh Hasina is the country's current prime minister.

Cabinet members, politicians and diplomats were invited to a reception by the president at the presidential palace after the prayers.

Kashmir celebrates

The day was also enthusiastically celebrated in the troubled Kashmir region, where violent clashes between separatists and Indian security forces have cost several thousand lives.

Security alert in a Srinagar market
Security forces kept a low profile in Indian-administered Kashmir but maintained a significant presence.

"I am not going to. . . spoil the festive mood of the people, but I have directed my boys to increase patrols to prevent miscreants from creating trouble," an Indian officer said.

Indian border guards put up banners with Muslim greetings on their bunkers in central Srinagar.

But many Kashmiris were on the streets and shop windows were decorated.

"This is the day we wait for all the year," said Tariq Bhat, a Kashmiri teenager.

"In the normal absence of any parties and get-togethers, this is the day we enjoy the most," he said.

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16 Mar 00 | Middle East
In Pictures: Feast of the Sacrifice
18 Mar 99 | Middle East
What is the Hajj?
15 Mar 00 | Middle East
Pilgrims descend from Mount Arafat
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