Muslims across Asia celebrate Eid

None | ByAgence France-Presse, Kabul
Oct 24, 2006 03:30 PM IST

Millions of Muslims across Asia celebrated Eid amid heightened security across much of the region.

Millions of Muslims across Asia on Tuesday joined family and friends to celebrate the annual Eid ul-Fitr Islamic holiday, marking the end of the month-long Ramadan fast amid heightened security across much of the region.

HT Image
HT Image

Shops and businesses shut and streets thronged with people travelling to visit the homes of friends and relatives for the festival, traditionally a time for seeking forgiveness.

Police in Afghanistan said they would maintain high security for the three-day holiday, which began there on Monday, in case Taliban insurgents stepped up their attacks.

Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar on Monday pledged to intensify strikes against foreign forces in Afghanistan, in an Internet message marking the start of the Muslim feast.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the world's Muslims to help his country rid itself of insurgents and urged the militants to stop "serving foreign interests".

But there had been no major incidents by early Tuesday, leaving Afghan Muslims to share sweets, dry fruit, chocolates and cookies, and congratulate each other on the festival in peace.

Security was also tight in parts of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, where millions took part in morning prayers on Tuesday to mark the start of Eid.

In Ende, in the predominantly Christian eastern Indonesian island of Flores, close to 10,000 Muslims conducted prayers in an open field under heavy security.

Two men jailed for their roles in the 2005 Bali blasts that killed 202 people were freed as thousands of prisoners in Indonesia had their sentences cut to mark the day.

The Philippines' seven million Muslims enjoyed a peaceful end to Ramadan on Tuesday, in contrast to previous years, when many in the majority-Muslim south of the country marked the occasion by firing guns into the air.

In the southern island of Jolo, police chiefs ordered their Muslim officers to tape the muzzles of their weapons, and only a few stray gunshots were heard in the southern city of Cotabato.

Police were on heigh alert in Manila following reports that terrorists might take advantage of the festivities to bomb strategic areas.

The country's sprawling southern region, regarded as a Muslim homeland, has been the scene of decades-long separatist insurgency.

Although Muslims make up only about five percent of the country's estimated 84 million population President Gloria Arroyo has declared Eid ul-Fitr a national holiday as a gesture to the Muslim minority.

Muslims in Thailand's southern provinces, where an Islamic insurgency has raged for nearly three years, also celebrated Eid under tight security after a deadly surge in violence in the last two weeks.

While people prayed for the deceased relatives in early morning services at graveyards, armed soldiers deployed along the region's main roads as military Humvees patrolled the cities and towns.

Despite efforts by Thailand's military-backed government to extend an olive branch to insurgents, at least 28 people were killed as the violence spiralled last week.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi used the occasion to urge greater economic development in Muslim nations to combat perceptions that Islam is against progress and promotes terrorism.

In the Indian capital New Delhi, government offices closed and thousands packed into the 17th century red sandstone Jama Masjid mosque on Tuesday morning to pray.

Eid was also celebrated on Tuesday in the eastern state of Bihar, neighbouring West Bengal and southern Karnataka and Kerala states.

But many other parts of the country, including Kashmir, northern Uttar Pradesh and southern Andhra Pradesh states, were to wait until Wednesday for the festival, the timing of which depends on the sighting of the new moon.

In Bangladesh, where Eid will also fall on Wednesday, the normally congested capital Dhaka was almost deserted due to the annual exodus of around six million migrant workers to celebrate the festival in their home villages.

On Monday, 15 people died when an overcrowded ferry collided with a goods vessel and another 10 people died in a head-on collision between two overloaded buses.

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