Dozens of Shiite pilgrims killed in Iraq stampede

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world swarmed Karbala on Tuesday. — AFP

The incident took place in the afternoon during the major Shiite ritual of Ashura when thousands of Shiite pilgrims pushed into the entrance of the Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala, some 110 km south of Baghdad.

More than 100 people are also reported to have been injured, with 10 believed to be in critical condition.

The day of Ashura is commemorated by Shiite Muslims worldwide and marks the climax of mourning rituals in the Islamic month of Muharram for the 7th century killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.

The stampede occurred toward the end of the procession, officials said, as tens of thousands of people rushed toward Hussein's shrine in what is known as the "Tweireej" run.

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

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Tuesday's stampede is the deadliest in recent history during Ashura.

Tuesday's commemorations were peaceful until the walkway collapsed, triggering the chaos. 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.

Iraqi Shiite worshipers gather next to the site of a stampede accident inside Imam Hussain shrine, in the holy city of Karbala, southern Iraq.

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.

This year's commemoration comes amid rising tensions in the Middle East and the crisis between Iran and the USA and its ally Israel in the wake of the collapsing nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

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