Security tight as hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims converge on Iraqi city for holy day

Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims have flocked to an Iraqi holy city for the peak of a 10-day religious ritual amid tight security over fears of sectarian attacks.

Ashoura rituals were so far peaceful in the city of Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, on Tuesday as more than 30,000 Iraqi troops were deployed to protect the worshippers. This is the first time Ashoura has been observed since Sunni extremists -- who view Shiites as apostates deserving of death -- seized much of northern and western Iraq.

Ashoura marks the anniversary of the death in the seventh century of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein in a battle outside Karbala, which sealed Islam's historic Sunni-Shiite split. Shiite festivals in Iraq have often been attacked by Sunni extremists.