Baghdad bridge stampede

Baghdad bridge stampede

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The 2005 Baghdad bridge stampede occurred on August 31, 2005 when 953 people died following a stampede
Stampede
A stampede is an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the herd collectively begins running with no clear direction or purpose....

 on Al-Aaimmah bridge
Al-Aaimmah bridge
The Al-Aaimmah bridge is a bridge over the river Tigris in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The bridge links the areas of Adhamiya, which is a majority Sunni Arab area, from its East bank with the Shia area of Kadhimiya on its west....

, which crosses the Tigris
Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 river in the Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

i capital of Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

.

The stampede


At the time of the stampede, around one million pilgrim
Pilgrim
A pilgrim is a traveler who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journeying to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system...

s had gathered around or were marching toward the Al Kadhimiya Mosque
Al Kadhimiya Mosque
The Al-Kādhimiya Mosque is a shrine located in the Kādhimayn suburb of Baghdad, Iraq.It contains the tombs of the seventh Twelver Shī‘ah Imām Mūsā al-Kādhim and the ninth Twelver Shī‘ah Imām Muhammad at-Taqī....

, which is the shrine of the Imam
Imam
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

 Musa al-Kazim, one of the twelve Shi'a Imams. Tensions had been high within the crowd. Earlier in the day, seven people had been killed and dozens more wounded in a mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 attack upon the assembled crowd for which an Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 linked insurgent
Iraqi insurgency
The Iraqi Resistance is composed of a diverse mix of militias, foreign fighters, all-Iraqi units or mixtures opposing the United States-led multinational force in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi government...

 group claimed responsibility. Near the shrine, rumors of an imminent suicide bomb attack broke out, panicking many pilgrims. Interior Minister Bayan Baqir Solagh said that one person "pointed a finger at another person saying that he was carrying explosives...and that led to the panic".

The panicked crowd flocked to the bridge, which had been closed. Somehow, the gate at their end of the bridge opened, and the pilgrims rushed through. Some people fell onto the concrete base and died instantly. The ensuing crush of people caused many to suffocate. The pressure of the crowd caused the bridge's iron railings to give way, dropping hundreds of people 9 meters (about 30 feet) into the Tigris river. There was nowhere on the bridge for the people to go, as the other end of the bridge remained closed, and was impossible to open anyway, as it opened inward.

Owing to the nature of the incident many of those who died were those who could be considered physically weakest, such as the elderly, women and children.

People dived in from both ends of the bridge trying to help those drowning in the river. On the Sunni side, calls went out from the loudspeakers of local Mosques to help those in trouble. One teenager, Othman Abdul Hafez, a Sunni Arab from the other side of the bridge, drowned as he rescued people in the water, succumbing to exhaustion; he was later praised as a "Shahid" by Iraqi politicians.

Aftermath



A three-day mourning period was announced by Iraqi Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Iraq
The Prime Minister of Iraq is Iraq's head of government. Prime Minister was originally an appointed office, subsidiary to the head of state, and the nominal leader of the Iraqi parliament. Under the newly adopted constitution the Prime Minister is to be the country's active executive authority...

 Ibrahim al-Jaafari
Ibrahim al-Jaafari
Ibrahim abd al-Karim Hamzah al-Eshaiker al-Jafari is an Iraqi politician who was Prime Minister of Iraq in the Iraqi Transitional Government from 2005 to 2006, following the January 2005 election. He was previously one of the two Vice-Presidents of Iraq under the Iraqi Interim Government from 2004...

. Iraqi President
President of Iraq
The President of Iraq is the head of state of Iraq and "safeguards the commitment to the Constitution and the preservation of Iraq's independence, sovereignty, unity, the security of its territories in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution." The President is elected by the Council of...

 Jalal Talabani
Jalal Talabani
Jalal Talabani is the sixth and current President of Iraq, a leading Kurdish politician. He is the first non-Arab president of Iraq, although Abdul Kareem Qasim was half Kurdish....

 said the catastrophe "will leave a scar in our souls and will be remembered with those who died in the result of terror acts." Many of the dead were buried in the holy Shia Islamic town of Najaf
Najaf
Najaf is a city in Iraq about 160 km south of Baghdad. Its estimated population in 2008 is 560,000 people. It is the capital of Najaf Governorate...

.

There was some political fallout also from the event, with Mutalib Mohammad Ali, The Minister for Health, blaming the Defence Ministers for not doing enough to secure the area. However, the Prime Minister dismissed any calls for resignation for any ministry.

After the stampede, a few commentators in the Western media speculated that given the scale of the incident it might tip the country into a civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

 by antagonizing the Shi'a community. However, there was no immediate surge in sectarian violence. Opposition groups blamed the government and security forces for failing to prevent the incident. However, these groups themselves often encourage high turn-outs at religious events to prove the relative strength of their sect. Another factor leading to a high turn-out at Shia religious events is the fact such events were banned under Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

, and so many attend to express faith in a way they were banned from doing for decades.

The stampede received relatively little attention in the U.S. media because it occurred just two days after Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

 struck the Gulf Coast, the aftermath of which continued to dominate headlines.

World reaction


Governments and world leaders have offered their condolences after the deadly stampede:
  • Syria
    Syria
    Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

    n Foreign ministry official quoted by state news agency
    News agency
    A news agency is an organization of journalists established to supply news reports to news organizations: newspapers, magazines, and radio and television broadcasters. Such an agency may also be referred to as a wire service, newswire or news service.-History:The oldest news agency is Agence...

     Sana:
"The Syrian government and people express their sympathy to Iraqis and to the families of the victims, and they wait for the day when security, stability and progress reign in the country."
  • Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

     Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi:
"[Iran offers its] condolences and sympathy with the Iraqi people and government. Suspicious hands are involved in conspiracies to incite violence and bloodshed among the different Iraqi groups and tribes so that they disturb the security and calm of the Iraqi people"
  • UK
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

     Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
    Jack Straw (politician)
    John Whitaker Straw is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Blackburn since 1979. He served as Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001, Foreign Secretary from 2001 to 2006 and Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons from 2006 to 2007 under Tony Blair...

    , speaking on behalf of the EU and the UK - current holder of the EU presidency:
"It is still not clear exactly what started the stampede which led to these hundreds of deaths and injuries. However, it is clear that the same crowd of Shia pilgrims, celebrating an important Shia religious festival, had earlier suffered a mortar attack... I condemn utterly this despicable act of terrorism against innocent civilians just as I condemn, too, those that continue to use violence and terror more widely in order to further their aims in Iraq. The depravity of these individuals who commit these acts of terrorism against their fellow Muslims sadly knows no bounds."
  • United States Department of State
    United States Department of State
    The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

     spokesman Sean McCormack
    Sean McCormack
    Sean McCormack is a former United States Assistant Secretary of State. He was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Department Spokesman on June 2, 2005, and served until January 20, 2009.-Early career:...

    :
"The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 deeply regrets the tragic loss of life of worshipers in Kadhimiya, Baghdad today... Our sincere condolences and thoughts and prayers go out to the many Iraqi families who lost loved ones in this tragedy."
  • Amr Mussa, Arab League
    Arab League
    The Arab League , officially called the League of Arab States , is a regional organisation of Arab states in North and Northeast Africa, and Southwest Asia . It was formed in Cairo on 22 March 1945 with six members: Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan , Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Yemen joined as a...

     Secretary General
"[We need a] redoubling of Arab efforts to support the Iraqi people in their sad hour."
  • Pakistan
    Pakistan
    Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

     President Pervez Musharraf
    Pervez Musharraf
    Pervez Musharraf , is a retired four-star general who served as the 13th Chief of Army Staff and tenth President of Pakistan as well as tenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Musharraf headed and led an administrative military government from October 1999 till August 2007. He ruled...

"It is with most profound sadness and grief that I had learnt about the death of hundreds of pilgrims in Baghdad."
  • UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe:
"The secretary general has learned with great sadness of the human tragedy that took place today in Baghdad."

External links



  • Iraq Warlogs
    Iraq War documents leak
    The Iraq War documents leak is the unsanctioned disclosure of a collection of 391,832 United States Army field reports, also called the Iraq War Logs, of the Iraq War from 2004 to 2009 to several international media organizations and published on the Internet by WikiLeaks on 2010. The files record...

    : Corresponding Iraq Warlogs event.