At least 31 pilgrims dead in stampede at Karbala shrine on Ashura

BAGHDAD: At least 31 pilgrims died and dozens were injured in a stampede at a major shrine in the Iraqi city of Karbala on the holy day of Ashura.

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

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world swarmed Karbala to commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA).

The packed processions of black-clad worshippers made their way to his gold-domed shrine, around 100 kilometres south of Baghdad, carrying flags and crying out: “We sacrifice ourselves for you, Oh Hussein!”

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.

Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr said the death toll could rise as 10 of the wounded were in critical condition.

‘No Pakistanis among those killed’

The Foreign Office (FO) confirmed that no Pakistani nationals we among those killed in a stampede at Karbala.

Spokesperson Mohammad Faisal added that the “Pakistan Embassy Camp Office in Karbala is closely monitoring the situation” and extended his condolences to the bereaved families.

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

Mourners swung large black flags with “Hussein” written in red, wailing loudly and singing religious hymns praising him.

Some whipped their backs and chests to demonstrate their sorrow.

Others — even young boys — cut incisions into their foreheads with scalpels or large sabres, leaving streams of blood cascading down their faces.

After reaching the Imam Hussein shrine, some pilgrims set fire to a tent to symbolise the burning of Hussein’s camp by Yazid’s forces.

Similar ceremonies took place in the capital Baghdad, in the southern city of Basra and in Iraq’s second holy city Najaf, where the Prophet Muhammed’s (PBUH) son-in-law Hazrat Ali (RA) is buried.