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September 11, 2019

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31 dead in Ashoura stampede in Karbala

A WALKWAY collapsed and set off a stampede in the holy city of Karbala yesterday as thousands of Shiite Muslims marked one of their most holy days of the year.

At least 31 people were killed and about 100 injured, officials said.

It was the deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashoura commemorations, when hundreds of thousands of people converge on the city, some 80-kilometer south of Baghdad, for the occasion every year.

The incident happened toward the end of the Ashoura procession, causing a panicked rush among worshippers near the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine, according to two officials.

Ashoura commemorates the killing of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, the Imam Hussein, by a rival Muslim faction in Karbala in what is now Iraq, in AD 680. Hussein and his descendants are seen by Shiites as the rightful heirs to the prophet. Hussein’s killing has been attributed with cementing the schism between Shiite and Sunni Islam.

In recent years, Ashoura processions have been attacked by extremist Sunni militants. In 2004, at the height of Iraq’s sectarian violence, 143 people were killed in near-simultaneous suicide and other bombings at shrines in Baghdad and Karbala during the Ashoura procession.

In 2005, rumors of a suicide bomber among worshippers crossing a bridge during a different religious holiday caused a massive stampede killing more than 950 people, many of whom jumped, in their panic, into the Tigris River.

Yesterday’s commemorations were peaceful until the walkway collapsed, triggering the chaos.

The incident took place during the so-called Tweireej run, when tens of thousands of people run toward the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala around noon. Earlier, hundreds of thousands of black-clad pilgrims held Ashoura processions amid beefed-up security in Karbala and Baghdad.




 

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