Dead in Stampede at Iraqi Shiite Shrine

Dead in Stampede at Iraqi Shiite Shrine

Iraq's state-run TV channel, citing Iraq's health ministry, says the death toll from a stampede in the Shia holy city of Karbala on Tuesday is 31.

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.

Shia Muslims make the annual pilgrimage to commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Husayn in the Battle of Karbala in the year 680 by the forces of Caliph Yazid.

It is Iraq's deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashura, whose commemorative marches had previously been targeted by Sunni extremist groups. 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.

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The incident took place in the afternoon during the major Shia ritual of Ashura when thousands of Shia pilgrims pushed into the entrance of Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala, some 110 km south of Baghdad. The 2-3 kilometer (1-2 mile) run symbolizes 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. Another official told the AP that there had been no collapse or crack in the walkway near the shrine.

At least 10 among the injured pilgrims were in critical condition, according to the officials.

Streets across the country were shuttered Tuesday to allow for funeral-style processions and elaborate re-enactments of the Battle of Karbala.

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