BAGHDAD — At least 31 people were killed in a stampede on Tuesday at a shrine near the Iraqi city of Karbala, where tens of thousands of pilgrims were observing the holy day of Ashura, officials said.
About 100 people were injured in the panicked rush, which began when part of a walkway collapsed, two officials said.
Hundreds of thousands of people converge every year on Karbala, which is about 50 miles south of Baghdad, for Ashura, which is one of the most sacred events for Shiite Muslims.
The day commemorates the killing of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, by a rival Muslim faction in A.D. 680, an event that is said to have cemented the schism between Shiite and Sunni Islam. Shiites consider Hussein and his descendants the rightful heirs of the prophet.
Extremist Sunni militants have attacked Ashura processions in recent years, but the commemorations on Tuesday were peaceful until the walkway collapsed.
The collapse happened during the so-called Tweireej run, when tens of thousands of pilgrims run toward the shrine of Imam Hussein.
That run symbolizes how maternal cousins of Hussein’s half brother ran more than a mile from the nearby village of Tweireej intending to rescue him, but found that he had already been killed.
Earlier in the day, Ashura processions were held amid beefed-up security in both Karbala and Baghdad, the capital. Hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets, some beating their chests and lashing themselves with chains in a symbolic expression of grief and regret.