Iraq says record 17 million Shiite pilgrims in Karbala

Shiite Muslims gather outside the Imam Hussein shrine on December 11, 2014, in the central Iraqi city of Karbala in preparation for the the Arbaeen religious festivalIraqi Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi said Thursday that the number of pilgrims in the city of Karbala for the annual Arbaeen commemoration had reached a record 17.5 million this year. Arbaeen, which marks the end of the 40-day period of mourning after the anniversary of Imam Hussein’s death, is considered one of the largest religious gatherings in the world. The Arbaeen commemoration is on Saturday December 13, but millions of Shiite faithful have been walking to Karbala from all over Iraq, and large numbers from across the Iranian border, for days. The Iraqi authorities had reported already last week that at least one million Iranians, the largest number on record, had come to Iraq for Arbaeen this year.

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