11 Dec 2015

Hajj stampede killed THREE TIMES the number reported by Saudi Arabia; ...2,411 pilgrims dead according to new report

A stampede during the hajj in Saudi Arabia in September killed at least 2,411 pilgrims, according to a new count, some three times the number of deaths acknowledge by the kingdom.

Figures compiled by the Associated Press established that the crush at Mina was the deadliest in the history of the annual pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia rebuffed criticism from its regional rival Iran and efforts by other countries to join a probe into the deaths. Although King Salman ordered an investigation into the tragedy almost immediately, few details have been made public since.



The count by the Associated Press is based on state media reports and officials' comments from 36 of the over 180 countries that sent citizens to the hajj. Hundreds of pilgrims remain missing. The official Saudi toll of 769 people killed has not changed since Sept. 26, and officials there have yet to address the discrepancy.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency has not mentioned the investigation into the disaster since Oct. 19, when it reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also the kingdom's interior minister, was 'reassured on the progress of the investigations.'

The crown prince is the next in line to the throne and any blame cast on the Interior Ministry, which oversees safety during the hajj, could reflect negatively on him.

The ruling Al Saud family maintains its major influence in the Muslim world through its oil wealth and its management of Islam's holiest sites. Like Saudi monarchs before him, King Salman has taken the title of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.


Authorities have said the Mina crush and stampede occurred when two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, suffocating or trampling to death those caught in the disaster. Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars on crowd control and safety measures for those attending the annual five-day pilgrimage, required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life, but the sheer number of participants makes ensuring their safety difficult.

The hajj this year drew some two million pilgrims, though in recent years it has drawn more than 3 million without any major incidents.

Iran was most affected by the disaster, according to the AP count, with 464 Iranian pilgrims killed. Mali said it lost 305 people, while Nigeria lost 274 and 190 pilgrims from Egypt were killed.

Credit: Associated Press

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