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At least 31 die in stampede at Muslim religious festival in Iraq

Written by on 10/09/2019

At least 31 pilgrims have died after a walkway collapsed, causing a stampede at a Shia Muslim religious ritual in the Iraqi city of Karbala, officials have said.

At least another 100 were injured, 10 of them critically, on what is one of the sacred religious holy days for Shias, an Iraqi health ministry spokesman said.

Tragedy struck around noon on Tuesday near the end of the Ashura procession, according to city officials, who did not provide details on how the victims died. Funerals later took place for the victims.

Ambulances at scene of stampede in Kerbala

Image: Ambulances at the scene of the tragedy in the Iraqi city

The so-called Tweireej run, where tens of thousands of worshippers run towards the shrine of holy figure, Imam Hussein, turned into a stampede at the entrance to the ornate building after the walkway collapsed, an official at the shrine said.

The run symbolises when maternal cousins of Imam Hussein’s half-brother al-Abbas ran from the nearby village of Tweireej to rescue him only to find out that he was killed.

Hundreds of thousands of Shia Muslims travel to Karbala from around the world each year to mark the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, in battle in 680.

He died at the city fighting for the leadership of the Islamic community, one of the key moments in the schism between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

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The rituals commemorating his death involve self-flagellation, with crowds of mourners striking themselves and some lacerating their heads with blades.

Shi'ite pilgrims gather during the religious festival of Ashura in the holy city of Kerbala, Iraq September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Image: Shia pilgrims gathered during the Ashura religious commemorations in Karbala

Earlier, hundreds of thousands held Ashura processions amid heightened security in Karbala and in the capital, Baghdad, around 50 miles (80km) to the north.

Processions were also held by Shias in other parts of the world, including India and Pakistan.

In Karbala, many of the faithful beat their chests and lashed themselves with chains in a symbolic expression of grief and regret for not being able to help Hussein before his martyrdom.

Shi'ite Muslims burn a tent to re-enact a scene from the battle of Kerbala in the holy city of Kerbala, Iraq

Image: Shia Muslims burnt a tent to re-enact a scene from the battle of Karbala

Stampedes have occurred in the past at the festival, and in recent years, Ashura processions have been attacked by extremist Sunni militants.

Tuesday’s commemorations were peaceful until the walkway collapsed.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2019

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