BAGHDAD – At least 31 people have been killed and almost 100 others injured in a stampede at a Shia religious festival in the Iraqi city of Kerbala, the country’s health ministry said Tuesday.
Health officials said that at least 12 of the injured were in a serious condition and warned that the death toll could increase over the coming hours.
It was so far unclear what triggered the stampede near a shrine in the central Iraqi city.
Every year millions of Shia pilgrims gather in Kerbala to mark Ashura.
The religious occasion falls on the 10th of the first lunar month of Muharram and is observed to commemorate the death of Imam Hussain, one of the grandsons of the Prophet Mohammad, in the 7th-century battle of Karbala.
Hussain’s death at the hands of Umayyad caliph Yazid I and is seen as a major event in the schism between Sunni and Shia Islam.
He is buried in Kerbala under the grandiose Imam Hussain Shrine.
Iraq and neighboring Iran are Shia-majority nations.