Pilgrims Die. Terrorism To Blame.

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This is what fear of terrorism creates.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 31 – More than 950 people were killed and hundreds wounded today when rumors of a suicide bomber provoked a frenzied stampede in a procession of Shiite pilgrims as they crossed a bridge in northern Baghdad, government and hospital officials said.

Most of the dead were crushed or suffocated, witnesses said, but many also drowned after falling or jumping into the Tigris River after the panicking crowd broke through the bridge’s railings. The disaster was by far the greatest one-day loss of life since the American invasion in March 2003.

Fear had begun spreading in the crowd an hour earlier, after a group of insurgents fired rockets and mortars near the gold-domed Shiite shrine where the pilgrims were headed, killing at least seven people and wounding two dozen. Insurgents have often struck at Shiite religious processions in the past. But the stampede appears to have started with unfounded rumors of a man wearing a suicide belt on the bridge.

The pilgrims were among a throng of hundreds of thousands of mostly poor Shiites from northern Baghdad and the surrounding area who had converged on the shrine bearing colored banners and symbolic coffins to mark the anniversary of the death of Imam Musa Kadhim, one of Shiite Islam’s holiest figures.

This wasn’t Bush’s fault. This wasn’t our government’s fault. Somebody cried “suicide bomber” in the middle of a crowded mass, and people fled. It’s a natural reaction to the terror these awful people have created and it is our duty to bring them (and the terrorists) to justice.

Let’s hope we stay long enough in Iraq to make sure they’re merely a distraction, instead of the focus.

CNN also has more about the pilgrims.

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