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August 31, 2005
More Disaster
The death toll rose to more than 800 this morning after rumors of a suicide bomber led to a stampede in a vast procession of Shiite pilgrims as they crossed a bridge on their way to a shrine in northern Baghdad.

Most of the dead were crushed or suffocated, witnesses said, but many also fell or jumped into the Tigris River after the panicking crowd broke through the bridge's railings.

The pilgrims were among a throng of hundreds of thousands who had converged on the capital over the preceding day to mark the anniversary of the death of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, one of Shiite Islam's holiest figures.

Fear had begun spreading in the crowd an hour earlier, after insurgents fired rockets and mortars near the shrine, killing seven pilgrims and wounding two dozen, and leading to a counter-attack by American military helicopters.

But the stampede, which caused the greatest one-day loss of life since the American invasion in March 2003, appears to have been caused by unfounded rumors of a man wearing a suicide belt in the crowd.

At least 841 were killed and at least 323 people were injured, an Interior Ministry official said early this evening in Baghdad.

New York Times

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