More than 30 pilgrims were killed and dozens injured yesterday in a stampede at a major shrine in the Iraqi city of Karbala on the holy day of Ashura.
It is Iraq’s deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashura, whose commemorative marches had previously been targeted by extremist groups.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world swarmed Karbala, around 100 kilometres south of Iraq’s capital Baghdad.
The packed processions of black-clad worshippers made their way to his gold-domed shrine, carrying flags and chanting.
As the massive crowds pressed forward, a stampede broke out that left at least 31 people dead and another 100 wounded, according to Iraq’s health ministry.
Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr said the death toll could rise as 10 of the wounded were in critical condition. Outside the Al-Hussein Medical City in Karbala, paramedics wheeled wounded people into the emergency room throughout the afternoon.
“The pilgrims started falling down all of a sudden,” said a young man in a wheelchair who had been bruised around the eye and temple.
“They piled up one on top of the other. There was a stampede and people were suffocating,” he said.
Authorities at the Imam Hussein shrine said the nationalities of the victims were not yet confirmed.
Yesterday evening, Health Minister Alaa al-Din Alwan arrived in Karbala as messages began pouring in, with President Barham Saleh expressing his “deep condolences” to the victims’ families.
Streets across the country were shuttered yesterday to allow for funeral-style processions and elaborate re-enactments of the Battle of Karbala.
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