At least one person has been killed and dozens injured in a stampede at a stadium in Basra, southern Iraq, ahead of the Arabian Gulf Cup final.
Thousands of fans without tickets had gathered outside the stadium in Iraq’s main southern city of Basra since dawn, overwhelming security forces.
Iraq is set to face Oman in the final of the eight-nation Arabian Gulf Cup at 7pm (16:00 GMT) on Thursday.
Iraq’s Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani is reportedly holding an urgent meeting with security officials after the stadium stampede. Basra’s governor has said that the Arabian Gulf Cup final match may be held outside Iraq if the stampede continues due to security forces’ inability to control large crowds.
Iraq which is hosting the Gulf Cup for the first time since it hosted and won the Arabian Gulf Cup, a football tournament among Gulf Arab countries back in 1979. After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Iraq was prohibited from participating in the tournament from 1990-2004 making this year’s tournament a significant return for the country. Iraqis hosting the event are hoping to reshape Iraq’s image as an unsafe and unstable place to a country capable of hosting large-scale events.
Although ahead of the Gulf Cup stampede in Iraq, there have been allegations of mishandling ticket sales, unpopular attempts by authorities to cordon off informal settlements and calls by Islamists to ban singing and dancing.