Iraqi Shiites perform annual pilgrimage in southern Jordan

Some 200 Iraqi Shiites performed an important annual pilgrimage in southern Jordan on Friday because violence in their home country made it too dangerous to return. More than 700,000 Iraqis have fled to Jordan, but the majority are Sunnis who do not do not assign as much importance to Ashoura - the holiest festival on the Shiite Muslim calendar. Ashoura marks the death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, in a battle in 680 A.D. against the leader of what became the majority Sunni branch of Islam. The battle took place in Karbala in present day Iraq - one of the few countries that is majority Shiite - and Shiites often march to the city in commemoration. "I cannot perform my Ashoura pilgrimage in Karbala because of the escalation of violence in my country," said 35-year-old Iraqi businessman Wissam Ibrahim.