M A I N   N E W S

244 killed in Haj stampede
Three Indians among the dead

Dubai, February 1
In one of the deadliest tragedies in recent times during Haj, three Indians were among 244 pilgrims trampled to death today in a stampede that occurred when an estimated two million devotees flocked to Mena, near Mecca, in Saudi Arabia to hurl stones at a pillar representing the devil in the last stage of the pilgrimage.

Television channels quoted Saudi Haj Minister Iyad Madani telling reporters in Mina that as many people were also injured in the stampede that lasted for 27 minutes in the morning at Jamarat Bridge during the “stoning of Satan”.

He said seven of the injured were in a critical condition, adding that most of the victims were Saudi nationals and many were not authorised to participate in the pilgrimage.

Indian Consul-General Syed Akbaruddin identified the three Indians killed in the stampede as Mohammed Ali (40), from Kerala, Gulam Mohamed Mir (40) from Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir and Mohammed Mohiuddin from Kolkata.

However, Mr Akbaruddin said “We do not know the exact number of people killed” during the “stoning of Satan” ritual. “We can only say that it is not an insignificant number,” he said.

Around two million pilgrims flocked to Jamarat Bridge in Mina to throw pebbles at a pillar representing the devil.

Official Saudi news agency SPA quoting a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said Jostling among the pilgrims during the stoning of the devil resulted in several of them falling, triggering the stampede. As the stampede occurred, security forces and medical units swung into action rescuing people.

Over two million pilgrims were walking over and under the 15-metre wide bridge which spans a small valley between two cliffs, the scene of scores of deadly stampedes in the past years.

About 1.2 lakh Indian Muslims, including, 8,943 from Jammu and Kashmir, are performing the Haj this year. Last year 14 pilgrims, including six women, were killed in a stampede during the first day of the stoning ritual and 35 in 2001, while the 1998 Haj saw 118 killed and more than 180 hurt at Mina.

The worst toll of the pilgrimage was in July 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims were trampled or asphyxiated to death in a stampede in a tunnel, also in Mina. — PTI, UNI

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