Karbala declares three-day mourning after stampede - GulfToday

Karbala declares three-day mourning after stampede


Adel Abdel Mahdi visits an injured person at the hospital in Baghdad on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse

Nassif Al Khattabi, the governor of the Iraqi Shiite Holy City of Karbala, has declared three days of mourning for 31 pilgrims who died in a stampede a day earlier.

At least 100 other people were injured in the stampede, which occurred on Tuesday as tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims marked Ashura, one of the most solemn days of the year for the sect, when worshippers from all over converge on Karbala.

It was the deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashura commemorations.

Khattabi, on Wednesday declared the mourning period.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi also visited the city after the incident.

Karbala is about 80km, south of Baghdad.

Officials say most of the injured have left hospital; nine remain in critical condition.

Separately, powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr joined Iran’s supreme leader during a rare visit to Tehran to mark Ashura, state media reported on Wednesday.

The office of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued pictures of Sadr flanked by Khamenei on one side, and the commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Major General Qasem Soleimani, on the other.

Iran’s judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi also attended the ceremony.

Some observers suspected Sadr had been “summoned” to Tehran after statements challenging Iran and its Iraqi allies in the Hashed Al Shaabi paramilitary force.

The Iraqi cleric recently launched a Twitter campaign against the more hardline elements of the Hashed and even took aim at the Iraqi government, saying Iraq was becoming a “rogue” state.

Others said it might indicate a vote of confidence in him by Iran’s top leadership over the Hashed’s political arm, the Fatah alliance.

Many noted it was strange to see Sadr outside Iraq on Ashura, a holy day during which millions of pilgrims travel to Karbala.

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ cultural agency Unesco announced on Wednesday that a landmark reconstruction of Iraq’s Al Nouri mosque in Mosul, which was blown up by the Islamic State group in 2017, will start at the beginning of next year.

The timeline of the restoration plan of the 12th-century monument, famed for its leaning minaret, was hammered out during a meeting in Paris between Unesco Director General Audrey Azoulay and several Iraqi officials, including Iraqi Culture Minister Abdulamir Al Dafar Hamdani, and Mosul’s regional governor, Mansour Al Mareed.

First launched in 2018, the mosque restoration plan will be the most eye-catching part of a $100 million Unesco-led heritage reconstruction of Mosul.

“Revive the Spirit of Mosul” is the largest restoration plan in Iraqi history, and comes two years after the old city’s destruction at the hands of extremists.

“Today we agreed on a calendar, a precise calendar and plan of action to be mobilised on the ground in Iraq. The ongoing phase of structural consolidation and the critical phase of site-clearing and mine-clearing (has) to be achieved from now to the end of the year,” Azoulay told reporters.

“We’ve also agreed on a timetable that would see the reconstruction start in the first semester of 2020 for the mosque,” she added.

Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi declared an area from the Al Nouri mosque in the summer of 2014, only for Daesh extremists to blow it up in June 2017 as Iraqi forces closed in.

Two years after Daesh was evicted, Mosul is a city still very much in ruins with no meaningful international effort to rebuild — one that is still struggling with basic services like electricity, water and health care.

The UN’s development programme is working to restore private houses in the historic Old City. Most of its residents still reside in camps.

The Unesco initiative goes far beyond the mere restoration of the mosque, and will see the cash be used to rebuild churches, schools and a street in Mosul’s Old City, which was famous for its bookshops.

The United Arab Emirates is providing $50.4 million to finance the project, focusing on the restoration of the mosque, with the European Union providing $24 million.


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