Stampede outside soccer stadium in Iraq kills 1, injures dozens

Deadly crush in Basra comes as spectators gather for first international match held in country in over 40 years; 60 said hurt

Injured soccer fans are brought into an emergency area at the Basra International Stadium following a stampede ahead of a match in the Arabian Gulf Cup between Iraq and Oman, in Basra, on January 19, 2023 (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)
Injured soccer fans are brought into an emergency area at the Basra International Stadium following a stampede ahead of a match in the Arabian Gulf Cup between Iraq and Oman, in Basra, on January 19, 2023 (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

BAGHDAD — A stampede outside a stadium in southern Iraq killed one person and injured dozens Thursday, the state news agency reported.

The deadly incident happened as spectators gathered to attend the final match in the first international soccer tournament held in the country in four decades. The Iraqi News Agency said some of the 60 people who were injured outside the Basra International Stadium are in critical condition.

Thousands of fans without tickets had gathered outside the stadium in Iraq’s main southern city of Basra since dawn in the hope of watching the final between Iraq and Oman, which was due to kick off at 7 p.m. (1600 GMT).

“There has been one death and dozens of slight injuries,” a medic said.

An interior ministry official gave the same toll.

“A large number of fans, many of them without tickets, had gathered since first light to try to get in,” the official said.

An AFP photographer inside the stadium said the turnstiles were still closed when the stampede broke out. Sirens blared as ambulances arrived to ferry the injured to the hospital.

Images posted on social media showed a sea of people outside the stadium

The final match in the eight-nation Arabian Gulf Cup is scheduled to be held later Thursday between Iraq and Oman.

The tournament faced several incidents, including chaos inside the VIP section during which a Kuwaiti prince was not able to attend the opening match earlier this month.

The tournament started on January 6, with teams from the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — as well as Yemen and Iraq. It’s the first time since 1979 that Iraq has hosted the tournament.

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