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Pilgrims Pack Karbala for Shi'ite Rituals

Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims gather in the central Iraqi shrine city of Karbala, 120 kms south of the capital Baghdad, as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims descend on the city to commemorate Arbaeen, 25 Jan 2011

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have packed Iraq's holy city of Karbala for the climax of a Shi'ite religious ceremony, despite a string of deadly attacks targeting pilgrims.

Worshipers chanted and beat their chests Tuesday as part of rituals for Arba'een. The ceremony marks the end of an annual 40-day mourning period for the 7th century Shi'ite martyr, Imam Hussein. His shrine is in Karbala.

In continued violence, a roadside bomb wounded seven pilgrims in Baghdad Tuesday as they were traveling home from Karbala.

On Monday, two car bomb blasts on the outskirts of Karbala killed at least 12 people who were heading to the religious ritual.

Last week, a pair of suicide blasts near the city killed at least 50 people.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni militants in Iraq have frequently targeted Shi'ite religious observances.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.