KARBALA (AFP) - Iraqi security forces said on Sunday that they had defused nine bombs as millions completed the annual Ashura rituals in the Shiite shrine cities free of the massive attacks that have marred recent years. But violence again hit the ceremonies elsewhere in Iraq, with five dead in the bombing of a procession near the northern oil city of Kirkuk among a total of 32 faithful killed since Tuesday. The chief of military operations in Karbala, which is the focal point of the rituals, said two Al-Qaeda cells were arrested north of the central shrine city. They had a plan to target visitors and even put several IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on the main road, General Usman al-Ghanemi told a Press conference as the 10 days of ceremonies concluded. Around three million people thronged the streets of Karbala for the main rituals commemorating the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussein (RA) by the armies of Yazid in 680. Over the past 10 days, we have received around six million visitors who have come from all over Iraq, some coming by foot, Karbala provincial deputy governor Nasaeef Jassim said, adding that at least half had stayed for Sundays climax. He said that among the visitors were some 105,000 from abroad, mostly from the Gulf but also from other countries with significant Shia communities including Pakistan. Sundays bomb in northern Iraq ripped through an Ashura procession in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, killing five people and wounding 27, including five women and a policeman, police said. A peaceful Ashura was seen as crucial for the electoral prospects of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has built his reputation on bringing security to Iraq and is contesting March 7 elections on a new multi-confessional ticket. In March 2004, near-simultaneous bombings in Karbala and at a Shiite mosque in Baghdad killed more than 170 people. Masses of black-clad devotees took part in a ritual five-kilometre run, known as the Twairij, around midday (0900 GMT) to Hazrat Imam Husseins shrine while hitting their heads with their hands and screaming Labeikeh Hussein They then set fire to tents set up in the city to re-enact the scene of the final battle between Hazrat Imam Hussein (RA) and Yazids armies. Meanwhile, Afghanistans Shias, one of the countrys most under-privileged minorities, on Sunday braved possible Taliban attack to mark Ashura. Kabuls 10,000-strong police force was on the highest alert as Shias gathered at imambargahs throughout Kabul for the final ritual after 10 days of mourning, Interior Ministry spokesman Zamary Bashari told AFP. As the rituals came to an end, Bashari said: Our security measures have been successful, so far there has been no incident anywhere in the country. Chanting Oh Hussein, Oh Hussein, the Shias marched through Kabul to commemorate Ashura. Flogging their naked torsos with chains and blades, the marchers splattered onlookers with blood from their wounds as men mopped their backs and pools of blood collected on the road.