Millions of Muslims from around Iraq and the world flooded the holy shrine city of Karbala on Tuesday which marks the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)'s grandson and Shiite Muslims' third Imam, Hussein bin Ali (AS).
Karbala provincial council chief Nusaif al-Khatabi told AFP that 20 million people from some 40 countries made pilgrimages to Karbala this year, among them about one million Arabs and foreigners amid tight security after attacks killed dozens. Last year around 18 million people made pilgrimages to Karbala, where Hussein is buried.
Army Staff Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanimi said that 38,000 security forces members deployed to protect the faithful during the final 15 days of the pilgrimage.
Analysts believe the number of pilgrims this year was unprecedented. The rally (called Mashaya) is also unique in terms of quality and the number of its participants. It started from the holy shrine of Imam Ali (PBUH) - the first Shiite Imam - and will end up in the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (PBUH).