Read us | Listen to us | Watch us | Join Live Events | Turn Off Ads | Live |

Click on your language to translate this article:

Afrikaans Afrikaans Albanian Albanian Amharic Amharic Arabic Arabic Armenian Armenian Azerbaijani Azerbaijani Basque Basque Belarusian Belarusian Bengali Bengali Bosnian Bosnian Bulgarian Bulgarian Catalan Catalan Cebuano Cebuano Chichewa Chichewa Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Chinese (Traditional) Corsican Corsican Croatian Croatian Czech Czech Danish Danish Dutch Dutch English English Esperanto Esperanto Estonian Estonian Filipino Filipino Finnish Finnish French French Frisian Frisian Galician Galician Georgian Georgian German German Greek Greek Gujarati Gujarati Haitian Creole Haitian Creole Hausa Hausa Hawaiian Hawaiian Hebrew Hebrew Hindi Hindi Hmong Hmong Hungarian Hungarian Icelandic Icelandic Igbo Igbo Indonesian Indonesian Irish Irish Italian Italian Japanese Japanese Javanese Javanese Kannada Kannada Kazakh Kazakh Khmer Khmer Korean Korean Kurdish (Kurmanji) Kurdish (Kurmanji) Kyrgyz Kyrgyz Lao Lao Latin Latin Latvian Latvian Lithuanian Lithuanian Luxembourgish Luxembourgish Macedonian Macedonian Malagasy Malagasy Malay Malay Malayalam Malayalam Maltese Maltese Maori Maori Marathi Marathi Mongolian Mongolian Myanmar (Burmese) Myanmar (Burmese) Nepali Nepali Norwegian Norwegian Pashto Pashto Persian Persian Polish Polish Portuguese Portuguese Punjabi Punjabi Romanian Romanian Russian Russian Samoan Samoan Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic Serbian Serbian Sesotho Sesotho Shona Shona Sindhi Sindhi Sinhala Sinhala Slovak Slovak Slovenian Slovenian Somali Somali Spanish Spanish Sudanese Sudanese Swahili Swahili Swedish Swedish Tajik Tajik Tamil Tamil Telugu Telugu Thai Thai Turkish Turkish Ukrainian Ukrainian Urdu Urdu Uzbek Uzbek Vietnamese Vietnamese Welsh Welsh Xhosa Xhosa Yiddish Yiddish Yoruba Yoruba Zulu Zulu

More than 700 killed in massive hajj stampede near Mecca

0a1_2887
0a1_2887
Written by editor

MINA, Saudi Arabia- A massive stampede killed at least 717 people and injured hundreds more at the hajj in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in one of the worst-ever tragedies at the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

MINA, Saudi Arabia- A massive stampede killed at least 717 people and injured hundreds more at the hajj in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in one of the worst-ever tragedies at the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

The stampede, the second deadly accident to hit the pilgrims this month following a crane collapse in Mecca, broke out during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defense service said.

Bodies of pilgrims wearing traditional white clothing were left scattered by the crush, surrounded by discarded shoes, flattened water bottles and umbrellas that had been used for protection from the sun.

The civil defense service said that it was still counting the dead, who included pilgrims from different countries, and that at least 863 people had also been hurt.

Nearly two million people from across the globe were attending the hajj, one of the largest annual gatherings in the world.

Iran said at least 43 of its citizens were dead and accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors that caused the accident.

But a Saudi minister blamed the pilgrims themselves, saying they had not followed the rules laid out by authorities.

“Many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables” set for the hajj, Health Minister Khaled al-Falih told El-Ekhbariya television.

“If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided,” he said, vowing a “rapid and transparent” investigation.

– ‘Tripping all over each other’ –

The stampede began at around 9:00 am (0600 GMT), shortly after the civil defense service said on Twitter it was dealing with a “crowding” incident in Mina, about five kilometers (three miles) from Mecca.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had converged on Mina on Thursday to throw pebbles at one of three walls representing Satan, for the last major ritual of the hajj which officially ends on Sunday.

A hospital official told AFP the incident happened outside the Jamarat Bridge structure, where the stoning takes place. A group of pilgrims leaving the area collided with another group that was either moving in the opposite direction or camped outside, the official said.

A Sudanese pilgrim in Mina said this year’s hajj was the most poorly organized of four he had attended.

“People were already dehydrated and fainting” before the stampede, said the pilgrim who declined to be named.

People “were tripping all over each other”, he said, adding that a Saudi companion had warned him that “something was going to happen”.

Helicopters were flying overhead and ambulances were rushing the injured to hospital, AFP reporters at the scene said.

At one hospital, a steady stream of ambulances discharged pilgrims on stretchers.

The incident came as the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims marked Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar.

– 2 million pilgrims –

It was the second major accident this year for hajj pilgrims, after a construction crane collapsed on September 11 at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, killing 109 people including many foreigners.

The hajj is among the five pillars of Islam, and every capable Muslim must perform it at least once in a lifetime.

For years the pilgrimage was marred by stampedes and fires, but it had been largely incident-free for nearly a decade following safety improvements.

In the last major incident in January 2006, 364 pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual.

In 1990, a huge stampede in a tunnel at Mina after a ventilation system failure killed 1,426 pilgrims, mainly from Asia.

Thursday’s tragedy occurred outside the five-story Jamarat Bridge, which was erected in the last decade at a cost of more than $1 billion and intended to improve safety during the pilgrimage.

Almost one kilometer (less than a mile) long, it resembles a parking garage and allows 300,000 pilgrims an hour to carry out the ritual.

Official figures released Thursday said 1,952,817 pilgrims had performed this year’s hajj, including almost 1.4 million foreigners.

Foreign embassies were working to identify and assist their citizens caught up in the stampede.

In Tehran, Saudi Arabia’s Shiite rival Iran said authorities at the hajj had closed off two paths near where the accident later took place.

“This caused this tragic incident,” the head of Iran’s hajj organization, Said Ohadi, told Iranian state television.

– Iranian accusations –

“Today’s incident shows mismanagement and lack of serious attention to the safety of pilgrims. There is no other explanation. The Saudi officials should be held accountable,” he said.

After saying the kingdom was responsible for the tragedy, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said Riyadh’s envoy to Tehran would be summoned to the foreign ministry.

The faithful had gathered until dawn Thursday at nearby Muzdalifah where they chose their pebbles and stored them in empty water bottles.

They had spent a day of prayer Wednesday on a vast plain and Mount Arafat, a rocky hill about 10 kilometers (six miles) from Mina, for the peak of the hajj.

Celebrations of Eid al-Adha were also marred in neighboring Yemen, where a suicide bomber struck a mosque in the capital Sanaa in an attack targeting Shiite worshippers that killed at least 25 people and wounded dozens during prayers.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which has carried out a string of bombings in recent months targeting Shiites.