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Violence mars Ashura festival

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LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- The death toll following Thursday's suicide attack in the city of Hangu in northwest Pakistan has reached 30, police sources have told CNN.

The army has blocked access to the city and the situation there is under control, a police official said.

The suicide bomb attack took place during the Ashura holiday that mourns the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. (Full story)

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which also left dozens injured.

Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao told CNN army and paramilitary troops were sent to the area to quell riots that broke out after the attack. A mob burned shops and government offices.

Bracing for possible attacks on the national holiday, security was on high alert throughout Pakistan, and marchers were checked for explosives before being allowed to enter the processions.

In Afghanistan, hundreds of minority Shiite Muslims marking the Islamic festival clashed on Thursday with Sunnis in a western city, burning cars, mosques, officials and witnesses said.

At least four people were reported dead.

"We have some five or six dead bodies lying outside the hospital. They have been brought here, and inside the hospital we have 27 wounded," said Sayed Ahmad Alemi, a doctor at the main hospital in the western city of Herat, told Reuters. (Full story)

In Lebanon's southern suburbs of Beirut, about half a million Shiites marched in a peaceful procession. Some carried signs in Arabic and English defending Muslims' right to protest the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. (Full story)

The march was organized by the militant group Hezbollah.

In Iraq, a spokesman for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq told CNN that 2 million pilgrims were celebrating Ashura in Karbala, a city usually occupied by just 750,000 residents.

The faithful Shia began the day with a traditional call to prayer; then many took part in a ritual self-flagellation, some cutting their scalps with swords as they chanted. Others slapped their chests with their hands in a symbolic act of self-flagellation.

Several men had faces and shirts soaked with blood.

Filming banned

According to historical accounts, Imam Hussein was killed in a battle near Karbala, where he was overwhelmingly outnumbered by Yazeed's army more than 1,300 years ago. Yazeed was competing with him to head the Islamic religion.

The pilgrimage to Karbala is, in part, atonement for the failure of the pilgrims' ancestors to come to Hussein's aid. It celebrates the end of the 40-day Ashura period honoring Hussein's martyrdom.

The martyrdom of Hussein carries a significance for Shia similar to Christ's crucifixion, according to GlobalSecurity.org, an international security group.

For decades, the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party prevented pilgrims from entering Karbala. Travelers said security troops fired on pilgrims walking from Najaf to Karbala, according to the U.S. State Department's 2000 report on religious freedom.

In Baghdad's Shiite Khadmiye neighborhood, journalists were banned Thursday from videotaping the ritual mourning procession.

A CNN camera crew was told the ban was ordered out of fear that the news media would use the ritual to distort the image of Islam.

The order appeared to be enforced sporadically by Iraqi security forces, and some news agencies did tape the acts.

CNN Producer Syed Mohsin Naqvi contributed to this report

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