Hundreds dead after stampede at Hajj pilgrimage

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A stampede during one of the last rituals of the Hajj season — the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca — has killed more than 450 people and injured 719 others in Saudi Arabia.

The stampede occurred on Thursday morning during the ritual known as “stoning the devil” in the tent city of Mina, about 2 miles from Mecca, Islam ‘s holiest city.

Hundreds have been killed in past years during the same ceremony, and it comes only 13 days after a
crane collapse killed more than 100 people at another major Islamic holy site, the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

“We have a stampede accident in Mina, and civil defense is dealing with it,” said Brig. Gen. Mansour
al-Turki, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

Civil defense authorities said the latest death toll is 453, but the numbers have been climbing steadily.

Officials deployed 4,000 workers and 220 ambulances and other vehicles to Mina to help with
the disaster.

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In the ritual, crowds of pilgrims throw stones at three pillars — now in a re-enactment of an event
when the Prophet Abraham stoned the devil and rejected his temptations, according to Muslim
traditions.

In Thursday’s stampede, pilgrims were walking toward the largest of the pillars when there was a
sudden surge in the crowd about 9 a.m., causing a large number of people to fall, the state-run Saudi
Press Agency said, citing civil defense officials.

Information on what led to the surge wasn’t immediately available.

The ceremony was the scene of stampedes and hundreds of deaths in the 1980s and 1990s as pilgrims passed a crowded bottleneck area leading to the small pillars on the ground.

In 2006, a stampede there killed at least 363 people.

After that, the Saudi government erected three massive pillars and completed a $1.2 billion, five-
story bridge nearby where pilgrims can toss stones.
It was meant to be a roomier atmosphere and a more efficient way to accommodate the faithful.

The stoning ritual is done over at least two days, where pilgrims stone the three pillars at Mina —
believed to be where the devil was stoned when he tried to dissuade Abraham from obeying God’s
orders to slaughter his son. According to tradition, the event was a test from God, who gave Abraham a ram to slaughter instead.

Thursday was the third day of the Hajj.

On September 11, just days before this year’s Hajj started, a construction crane crashed through the roof of another eminent Hajj destination, the Grand
Mosque in Mecca, killing 107 people. At least 238 others suffered injuries when a powerful storm
toppled the crane.

Losing one’s life during the Hajj season is considered by many devout Muslims as an entry to
heaven.

More than 2 million Muslims from around the world are attending the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year.

Known as the fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj is an obligation upon every Muslim who has the financial
means and the physical ability to perform it. For most, it is the spiritual climax of their lives, with
many saving for decades to make the journey.

The pilgrimage, conducted over five days, includes detailed rituals such as wearing a special white
garment that symbolizes human equality and unity before God; a circular procession around the Kaaba , Islam’s holiest shrine, surrounded by Mecca’s Grand Mosque; and the symbolic stoning.

It was also a tragic day for Muslims in Yemen on Thursday, where at least 29 people attending Eid prayers died when a bomb went off inside a crowded mosque in Sanaa.

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