This week in the Middle East, millions of Shiite Muslims took part in Arbaeen rituals on a holiday that marks the end of the 40-day mourning period following the anniversary of the 7th century martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson.

In Egypt, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the pre-eminent institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world, urged Egyptian youth at Cairo university to resist religious extremism. Across the Nile River, a group of young men firebombed a nightclub after two of them were banned entry, killing more than a dozen people.

Iraqi security forces continued to push back against Islamic State militants in Ramadi, as the U.S. announced it will deploy a new Special Operations force to take on IS and Britain launched airstrikes after Parliament voted to joined allies targeting IS in Syria.

Tragedy struck an extended family of seven Iraqi Christians who drowned as they attempted to cross the Aegean Sea to reach Europe. Steven Marzina, a 31-year old baker, his wife Silvana, 27, and their children Ingi, 4, and Mark, 7 had fled Islamic State militants from their home on the plains of Nineveh province and had spent a year living in a camp in Irabil, Iraq. Silvana's sister, Samah Sami, also drowned along with her children, 16-year-old Haneen and 9-year-old Marvin from the district of Hamdaniya in northern Iraq.

Syria's al-Qaida branch released 16 Lebanese troops held captive for over a year as part of a Qatar-brokered swap in which Lebanon freed at least 11 prisoners, including a former wife of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Egypt reopened its border with the Gaza Strip in both directions for the first time in months as thousands of Palestinians lined up at the Rafah crossing, trying to leave the isolated enclave.

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Maya Alleruzzo, AP's chief Middle East photo editor in Cairo curated this gallery. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mayaalleruzzo