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31 dead, 96 injured during stampede at Karbala shrine in Iraq

Devdiscourse News Desk Baghdad
Updated: 10-09-2019 19:44 IST
31 dead, 96 injured during stampede at Karbala shrine in Iraq

At least 31 people have died on Tuesday as a result of a stampede at a major shrine in Karbala city of Iraq, the health ministry said.

Health ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr said the toll is not final as 96 others were injured at the shrine which is about 100 km south of Baghdad. Around ten people have been reported to be in critical condition.

The incident occured while the people were performing the Tuwairij run ritual to mark the holy day of Ashoura.

The unfortunate incident began when part of the walkway collapsed during Ashoura commemorations and caused panic among the pilgrims leading to a stampede.

It is the deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashura when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims swarm Karbala every year on the occasion, one of the most sacred religious holy days for the Shiites.

The somber day of Ashoura commemorates the killing of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Imam Hussein, by the forces of the Caliph Yazid in Karbala in present-day Iraq, in 680 AD.

It became a major event which helped solidify the divide between what would become Islam's Sunni and Shiite branches.

On Tuesday, packed processions of black-clad worshippers made their way to his gold-domed shrine in Karbala, carrying black flags with "Hussein" written in red and wailing loudly. Some whipped their backs and chests to demonstrate their sorrow.

Others cut incisions into their foreheads with scalpels or large sabers, leaving streams of blood cascading down their faces. Similar ceremonies took place in the capital Baghdad and in the southern cities of Najaf and Basra.

Under ex-dictator Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime, the vast majority of Ashura commemorations were banned. Now, the day is a national holiday, with streets across the country shuttered to allow for elaborate re-enactments of the Battle of Karbala.

In 2005, at least 965 pilgrims heading to the Imam Kadhim shrine in Baghdad during a different holiday died after rumors of a suicide bomber in the crowd sparked a mass stampede.

(With inputs from agencies)