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Iraq marks Ashura ahead of battle for Mosul

KARBALA, Iraq, Oct 12, (Agencies): Millions of Shi’ite Muslims fl ocked to Iraq’s holy city of Karbala on Wednesday to commemorate Ashura, a religious day marking the slaying of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandson Hussein in the 7th century AD in a revolt against the Umayyad ruler Yazeed. Visitors came from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Gulf as well as Iraq, where Shiites form the majority community.

Mourners dressed in black and waving fl ags with the slogan “O Hussein” moved around his mausoleum, hitting their heads and chests in a show of sorrow at the suffering of the imam and his family. Imam Hussein was killed on the site along with his halfbrother Abbas, his son Ali Akbar and dozens of his warriors on the Day of Ashura.

Other members of his family, including his sister Zainab and his daughters were taken as captives to Damascus. The day marks Hussein’s epic battle against Yazeed’s troops, who outnumbered his forces and who deprived him and his family access to the waters of the Euphrates River to force his surrender. This year’s commemoration is held as Iraqi forces prepare an offensive on Mosul, the last city still under control of Islamic State, the hardline Sunni group that considers the Shiites as apostates. Qais Al-Khazali, the leader of the Iran-backed paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, compared those who killed Husein in Karbala to Islamic State, which declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

“The liberation of Mosul will be the revenge against the killers of Hussein, because these (IS) are their grandsons,” he said in a video posted on the Kurdish news website Rudaw. Tensions between Turkey and Iraq continued to escalate Wednesday as Iraq’s prime minister rejected Turkish claims that their forces must be included in an operation to retake the militant-held city of Mosul. “We will liberate our land through the determination of our men and not by video calls,” Haider al-Abadi said late Tuesday night on his Twitter account, mocking the Turkish president’s nationally broadcast video call to a TV journalist amid a failed coup attempt in July.

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