BAGHDAD, Iraq - About 650 people — many of them women and children — were killed in a stampede Wednesday when panic engulfed a Shiite religious procession after rumors spread that a suicide bomber occupied the bridge they were crossing, officials said.
Scores jumped or were pushed to their deaths into the Tigris River, while others were crushed in the crowd in what appeared to be the single biggest loss of life in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
Tensions already had been running high in the procession in Baghdad's heavily Shiite Kazamiyah district because of a mortar attack two hours earlier against the shrine where the marchers were heading. The shrine was about a mile from the bridge.
One survivor said panic ensued when a rumor spread that a suicide bomber was in the crowd.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col Adnan Abdul-Rahman said 648 were killed and 322 injured. Most of the dead were women and children, he said. Survivors were rushed in ambulances and private cars to several hospitals and officials were scrambling to compile an accurate figure
Meanwhile, on the Syrian Border the policy of overwhelming force scores another hugh propoganda victory -- for the insurgents:
Air strikes have flattened insurgent safe houses used by militants linked to al Qaeda in western Iraq, the U.S. Marines told CNN Tuesday.
The air attacks near the Syrian border killed at least seven militants, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force said.
A top operative called Abu Islam was among the dead, the force said.
Police in Baghdad reported that 56 civilians were killed in the strikes.
They said police contacts in the region told them 40 civilians died in one house and 16 in another. Two children survived, they added.
I'm also going to go out on a limb here as well and guess that neither of these are going to help things get better.