31 Iraqi pilgrims die in stampede

  • Shiite Muslims beat themselves with chains during a Muharram procession in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is a month of mourning for Shiites in remembrance of the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Khalid Mohammed

  • Lebanese Shiite supporters of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group hold a portrait of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as they listen to the death story of Imam Hussein during the holy day of Ashoura, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. Millions of Shiite Muslims around the region on Tuesday marked Ashoura, one of the most sacred religious holy days for their sect, holding rallies, prayers and self-flagellation amid soaring... Hussein Malla

  • In this combination photo of six photographs shows Shiite Muslims beat themselves with chains during a Muharram procession, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is a month of mourning for Shiites in remembrance of the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Khalid Mohammed

  • Shiite Muslims gather outside the golden-domed shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim during a Muharram procession in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is a month of mourning for Shiites in remembrance of the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Khalid Mohammed

  • A girl watches Shiite children beat themselves with chains during a Muharram procession in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is a month of mourning for Shiites in remembrance of the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Khalid Mohammed

  • Black-clad Shiite Muslims mourn in a ceremony a day ahead of Ashoura, at the old main bazaar, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Ashoura falls on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, when Shiites mark the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Vahid Salemi

  • Shiite Muslims beat themselves with chains during a Muharram procession, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is a month of mourning for Shiites in remembrance of the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) Khalid Mohammed

  • Black-clad Shiite Muslims attend a mourning ceremony a day ahead of Ashoura, at the old main bazaar, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Ashoura falls on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, when Shiites mark the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Vahid Salemi

  • A Lebanese Shiite supporter of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, with a portrait of Hezbollah dead fighter on his head, weeps as he listens to the death story of Imam Hussein during the holy day of Ashoura, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. Millions of Shiite Muslims around the region on Tuesday marked Ashoura, one of the most sacred religious holy days for their sect, holding rallies, prayers and self-flagellation amid soaring... Hussein Malla

  • Lebanese Shiite supporters of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, with portraits of Hezbollah dead fighters on their heads, listen to the death story of Imam Hussein during the holy day of Ashoura, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. Millions of Shiite Muslims around the region on Tuesday marked Ashoura, one of the most sacred religious holy days for their sect, holding rallies, prayers and self-flagellation amid soaring tensions in... Hussein Malla

  • A Shiite Muslim mourns while actors re-enact the battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century during which Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, and 72 of his companions were killed, in Ashoura commemoration in downtown Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. Shiite Muslims around the world are observing Ashoura, one of the most sacred religious holy days for their sect. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Vahid Salemi

  • Iranian and Iraqi Shiite Muslims beat their heads during a mourning ceremony marking Ashoura in downtown Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. Shiite Muslims around the world are observing Ashoura, one of the most sacred religious holy days for their sect, which commemorates the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Vahid Salemi

  • Iranian and Iraqi Shiite Muslims mourn around a model of the tomb of Hussein, during a ceremony marking Ashoura, in downtown Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. Shiite Muslims around the world are observing Ashoura, one of the most sacred religious holy days for their sect, which commemorates the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the 7th century. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Vahid Salemi

Published: 9/10/2019 10:36:11 PM

BAGHDAD — A walkway collapsed and set off a stampede Tuesday in the holy city of Karbala as thousands of Shiite Muslims marked one of the most solemn holy days of the year. At least 31 people were killed and about 100 were injured, officials said.

It was the deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashoura commemorations, when hundreds of thousands of people converge on the city, some 50 miles south of Baghdad, for the occasion every year.

The stampede happened toward the end of the Ashoura procession, causing a panicked rush among worshippers near the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine, according to two officials.

The somber day of Ashoura commemorates the killing of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, the Imam Hussein, by a rival Muslim faction in Karbala in what is now Iraq, in 680 A.D. Hussein and his descendants are seen by Shiites as the rightful heirs to the prophet. Hussein’s killing has been attributed with cementing the schism between Shiite and Sunni Islam.

In recent years, Ashoura processions have been attacked by extremist Sunni militants. In 2004, 143 people were killed in near simultaneous suicide and other bombings at shrines in Baghdad and Karbala during the Ashoura procession.

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

The officials said the stampede 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.

The 2-3 kilometer (1-2 mile) run symbolizes when the 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 had been killed.

The officials — one of them at the Imam Hussein shrine and the other a security official — spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

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

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

Earlier in the day, hundreds of thousands of black-clad pilgrims held Ashoura processions amid beefed-up security in Karbala and in the capital, Baghdad, marching through the streets. 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.

On Sunday night, thousands marched toward the holy shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala, which had been lit up on the eve of the celebration.

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

Israel has recently expanded its war on Iran and its allies in the region, and is believed to have struck targets as far out as Iraq in recent weeks, drawing outrage and pledges of retaliation.

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Karam reported from Beirut.




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