BAGHDAD (AP) — A fire at a women’s shelter in Baghdad killed several lodgers on Friday, according to police, who gave conflicting accounts of the tragedy.
Baghdad Police Lt. Col. Mohammed Jihad, briefing reporters outside the shelter, called it a “group suicide” caused by women rioting in the shelter. He said several women were suffering from a “deteriorating mental state” and rioted, resulting in the fire that killed six women.
But another officer at the Rusafa police district, where the shelter is located, said the fire started in the kitchen after lodgers got into a fight. The officer, who asked that his name be withheld in line with police regulations, said two women died from stab wounds and seven perished in the fire.
At two nearby hospitals 22 others were being treated for injuries.
The casualty toll could not be independently confirmed. Police barred reporters from entering the shelter, located in Baghdad’s northern Azamiyah area.
The shelter, run by the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry’s Office for Rehabilitation, houses homeless women and those with children born out of wedlock.
This story has been updated to correct that the facility is a shelter not a prison.