More than 100 Muslim pilgrims die in Saudi stampede

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 100 Muslim pilgrims were crushed to death in a stampede at the haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia yesterday, the last official day of the sacred Islamic rite.

Haj security forces said the stampede occurred in the plain of Mena, where large crowds of pilgrims assembled near a bridge on their way to a ritual in Jamraat where they symbolically stone the devil.

"Enormous crowds overflowing to Jamraat caused the death of a number estimated at 107 pilgrims, according to an initial count," a security statement said. The final number of casualties and the identity of the victims had not yet been established, it added.

The stampede apparently occurred in the same area in which 270 people were crushed in another haj stampede in 1994.

More than 1.7 million pilgrims from 100 countries this year performed haj, one of the pillars of the Islamic faith.

Last year, 343 pilgrims were killed and more than 1,500 others injured when a fire swept through some 70,000 tents in Mena. In 1990, 1,426 haj pilgrims were crushed in a stampede in a tunnel. After the 1994 stampede, authorities doubled the width of the 1km long Jamraat bridge.