AT LEAST 31 pilgrims have died and another 100 were wounded in a stampede after a walkway collapsed in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala.
Today’s death toll – released by the Iraqi Health Ministry – was expected to rise, with at least 10 people in critical condition, said officials.
Earlier today, worshippers in Afghanistan marked the day of Ashoura, the tenth day of the first month in the Islamic calendar, by drawing blood with scourges[/caption]
The day commemorates the death of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad[/caption]
The deaths occurred toward the end of the Ashoura procession, during the Shi’ite Muslim religious rituals, at the Imam Hussein shrine.
Shrine official told news agency Reuters the stampede took place at the entrance to the ornate building.
The annual pilgrimage marking the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Hussein in battle in 680 draws hundreds of thousands of Shi’ite Muslims to Karbala from around the world.
The rituals commemorating the death of Hussein involve self-flagellation, with crowds of mourners striking themselves and some lacerating their heads with blades.
Stampedes have occurred in the past.
Associated Press said it was the deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashoura commemorations, some 50 miles (80km) south of Baghdad.
There was a panicked rush among worshippers near the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine as pilgrims saw people being crushed to death.
Tuesday’s commemorations were peaceful until the walkway collapsed, triggering the chaos.
The incident 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 one-two-mile run symbolises 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.