At least 31 pilgrims were killed and hundreds were injured on Tuesday in a stampede at a major Shia Islam shrine in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala during the religious rituals of Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, Reuters reported.
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 helped solidify the divide between what would become Islam’s Sunni and Shia branches. Ashura is one of the holiest days in the Islamic calendar.
The stampede reportedly took place at the entrance of Imam Husayn’s shrine. Iraqi health ministry spokesperson Saif al-Badr said the toll could rise as at least 10 people were in critical condition, AFP reported.
The rituals commemorating Husayn’s death involve self-flagellation, where some of the mourners even whipped their backs and chests to demonstrate their sorrow. Boys also cut incisions into their foreheads with blades, leaving streams of blood flowing down their faces.
Stampedes have occurred in the past during such events. However, this is reportedly the deadliest such stampede in recent history.
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