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Iraq Reports Nearly 700 Pilgrims Killed in Baghdad Stampede

Iraq's health ministry says nearly 700 Shi'ite pilgrims have been killed Wednesday in a stampede as pilgrims crossed a Baghdad bridge to a shrine in the capital.

Officials say panic swept through the crowd after a rumor spread that a suicide bomber was among the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Hundreds of women, children and the elderly were either trampled or shoved to their deaths in the Tigris River below.

More than 300 people were reported injured, and the death toll could rise. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has declared three days of national mourning.

Earlier, insurgents fired mortars near the shrine, the Khadimiyah mosque, killing at least seven people. A little-known militant group, Army of the Victorious Community, claimed responsibility for the attack in an unverifiable Internet statement.

Elsewhere in Iraq, the U.S. military reports the deaths of two soldiers since Tuesday.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.