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Devotion 17 million Shi’te Muslims defies ISIS threat for annual ritual

The fearless pilgrims in their millions thronged to the Iraqi Shrine city of Karbala for the annual Arbaeen Rituals.

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  play Pilgrims carry different flags representing the countries from which they have travelled from. (Reuters )

Despite threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to attack, millions of Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims thronged the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala for the climax of the annual Arbaeen mourning rituals.

A slew of devotees stormed the city's shrine of Imam Hussein, beating their heads and chests to show remorse for not saving him from the armies of the caliph Yazid that beheaded him in 680 AD.

According to Dailymail, thousands of the Muslims that attended the rituals, walked for more than 12 days, from Iraq's far south or across the border from Iran, while others were came in overloaded buses, and crammed into Lorries for the journey.

Turnout estimates were hard to verify independently, but all officials seemed to agree this Arbaeen was the largest they had ever seen. Some southern towns and cities looked emptied of their population.

Defence Minister, Khaled al-Obeidi, revealed that 17million have gone through Karbala for Arbaeen this year, including more than four million foreigners from 60 countries.

A mortar attack that killed one person on Friday, December 12 highlighted the security concerns surrounding what is believed to be one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, but the devoted pilgrims were not scared.

Forget mortars, even if it rains jihadists on Karbala, we will not be prevented from visiting the Imam Hussein shrine,” one of the pilgrims, 25-year-old Kadhem Hussein told Dailymail.

The Islamic State led by Sunni extremists sees the Shi'ites as orthodox and have always targeted them.

The head of Karbala operations command, brigadier General Qais Khalaf Rahim, also revealed that the number of security personnel in Karbala was increased by 15, 000 to 40,000 because of the Friday mortar attack.

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