Pilgrim Stampede at Border; 97 Killed across Iraq

Ten of thousands of Arbaeen pilgrims arrived at the Zurbatiya checkpoint on the Iranian border without the required visas to enter Iraq. Apparently, there was some confusion at the border, causing panic and then a stampede. Many pilgrims allegedly overwhelmed the border guards, injuring some, and entered Iraq illegally. One local official believes over a half million people then streamed across the border. The number of casualties was not reported.

The $30 visa allows the Shi’ite pilgrims to visit the holy cities and shrines in southern Iraq, which is safer than northern and western regions. Millions are expected to reach Karbala for the climax of the Arbaaen observances on Wednesday, but many roads from Iran have been shut down because of the situation at Zurbatiya. Iraq blames Iran and has requested the Iranians slow the flow down.

Many of these Shi’ite pilgrims walk to and from Karbala during these observances and many rest stops are provided for them along the way. This makes them easy targets for militants, so Iraq is forced to deploy security forces throughout southern Iraq to keep these pilgrims safe.

In other news, the Iraqi military dropped leaflets that warn residents to evacuate Ramadi ahead of a major battle.

Security forces are shelling the Hamrin Mountains heavily to facilitate the escape of more than 100 families from Hawija.           

Some Kurdish fighters are claiming that U.S. Special Forces have already been fighting in Iraq.

Also, a ceremony held in Arbil that memorialized the deportation of Jews from Iraq 70 years ago marked the first legal observance of Jewish religious rights in Kurdistan.
At least 97 were killed and 37 were wounded in violence:

In Baghdad, two suicide bombers targeting pilgrims were shot dead at separate locations in Saidiya and Shabb. A third was able to stage his attack in Shabb, killing nine and wounding 21 more; four security personnel were among the dead. Two roadside bombs killed five people and wounded 16 in commercial districts.

Security forces killed 75 militants in Ain al-Hilweh.

In Makhoul, eight militants were killed.

Dozens of militants were killed in Qaim.

Author: Margaret Griffis

Margaret Griffis is a journalist from Miami Beach, Florida and has been covering Iraqi casualties for Antiwar.com since 2006.