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Over 3.5 million pilgrims arrive in Karbala, Iraq for Imam Mahdi's birthday celebrations

Baghdad, Sept 30, IRNA -- Over 3.5 million enthusiastic pilgrims arrived in Karbala on Wednesday to attend the Thursday night and Friday celebrations of Imam Mahdi's birthday beside Imam Hussain's holy mausoleum. Mahdi the 12th and last Shi'a Imam.

According to IRNA correspondents in Karbala, the pilgrims started arriving Karbala as of Monday and as the day of 12th Imam's birthday approached the trend of their entries accelerated."

Head of the information committee of Imam Hossein's holy shrine, Afdhal ash-Shami says, "It is impossible to present an accurate figure about the number of pilgrims that keep pouring in, but they are roughly over three and a half million, many of them on foot, from near and far places inside and outside Iraq."

A Karbala police officer Najm, too, predicted that the arrival f pilgrims to Karbala would continue up to Thursday night.

He added, "Karbala security police spotted a car filled with explosives on Najaf-Karbala road, as it was approaching Karbala on Wednesday, and arrested its driver, while four armed men trying to arrive the holy Shi'a city through Baghdad-Karbala road, too were arrested later in the day."

The Iraqi police officer reiterated, "Scores of Iraqi National Guards have come to the city to assist Karbala police forces in assuring the security of pilgrims and the city residents."

Najm added, "They are positioned in various spots of all roads connecting Karbala to other parts of Iraq, and inside the city, watching closely for possible terror attempts. Also, the roads leading to Karbala have all been blocked ten kilometers away from the city in order to halt the entry of possible terrorists and carloads of explosives, or infiltrators."

A Karbala medical official, Dr. Ahmad Dakhel, in charge of emergency services during the celebrations, too, told IRNA, "Imam Hussain mobile Medicare Centers have been stationed in various spots of the Infallible Imam's Shrine's courtyards, commissioned to assist all in need, and all Karbala hospitals are on full alert for the purpose."

Celebrations for the auspicious birthday of Imam Mahdi have already started in Karbala, and some religious groups keep distributing free cookies, fruit juice, food and water among pilgrims.

... Payvand News - 9/30/04 ... --

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