Stampede during religious event in Iraq leaves at least 31 dead

Clay Curtis
September 11, 2019

At least 31 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in a stampede in the Iraqi city of Karbala, as Shia Muslim worshipers commemorated Ashura on Tuesday, according to Iraq's health ministry.

During Ashoura, Shia Muslims mourn for Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who died in AD 680 in the Battle of Karbala.

However, security officials told the Associated Press that the stampede began when a walkway collapsed.

Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr said the death toll could rise as 10 of the wounded were in critical condition.

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.

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The stampede occurred during the Tuwayrij Run, which is part of the major Ashura ritual, as a large crowd of Shiite pilgrims were running while beating their chests and heads from the Tuwayrij area towards the Imam Hussein shrine to express their sadness and sorrow for the death of Imam Hussein.

Hussein's martyrdom was a key event in the unfolding schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

In 2004, more than 140 people were killed in a series of near-simultaneous bombings at shrines in Karbala and Baghdad during Ashura.

No Iraqi media released images of the walkway collapse or ensuing stampede.

The following year, 2005, during a different religious holiday, rumors of a suicide bomber caused a mass stampede on a Baghdad bridge crossing the Tigris River. Numerous worshippers beat their chests and lash themselves with chains in an expression of grief and regret for not being able to help the murdered grandson of the Prophet.

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