Baghdad: At least 31 people died and another 100 were wounded on Tuesday during the Shi'ite Muslim religious rituals of Ashura in Iraq's southern holy city of Kerbala, in what an official at its Imam Hussein shrine described as a stampede.
The death toll released by the Iraqi Health Ministry was expected to rise, with at least 10 people in critical condition. The ministry did not disclose how they had been killed but the shrine official told 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 Kerbala from around the world. Hussein's death in a battle at Kerbala over the leadership of the Islamic community is one of the defining events in the schism between Shi`ite and Sunni Muslims.
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.