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Iraqi leaders call for unity after hundreds killed in stampede

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Iraqi leaders call for unity after hundreds killed in stampede


There are fears of greater sectarian violence in Iraq after nearly 1,000 people were killed in a stampede of Shia Muslims in northern Baghdad.

Police say the large crowd had been heading to a religious ceremony at the Kadhimiya mosque when someone shouted there was a suicide bomber among them. At least 965 people are known to have died, making this the single biggest loss of Iraqi life since the US-led invasion began two years ago. Iraqi president Jalal Talabani appealed for calm and unity saying what happened had nothing to do with sectarian violence. But the interior minister and two other top Shi’ite officials blamed Sunni insurgents for the stampede, claiming one had spread a rumour there was a suicide bomber in the crowd. Whatever sparked the rush for safety, the fear that a bomber might be on the loose was well grounded after previous attacks on Shi’ite religious events. At least three separate mortar and rocket attacks on the crowd heading to the mosque had killed seven people before the stampede. They were claimed by a little-known Sunni Muslim group.
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