At least 648 people were killed in a stampede on a bridge Wednesday when panic engulfed a Shiite religious procession amid rumors that a suicide bomber was about to attack, officials said. It was the single biggest confirmed loss of life in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.
Scores jumped or were pushed to their deaths into the Tigris River, while others were crushed in the crowd. Most of the dead were women and children, Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman said.
Tensions already had been running high in the procession in Baghdad’s heavily Shiite Kazimiyah district because of a mortar attack two hours earlier against the shrine where the marchers were heading. The shrine was about a mile from the bridge.