Death toll of September Hajj stampede is triple initial count

From the UK Telegraph

The September Hajj stampede killed at least 2,411 pilgrims, a new count shows, three times the number of deaths acknowledged by Saudi Arabia.

The figures establish the crush on September 24 as the deadliest in the history of the annual pilgrimage.

The Saudis' official death toll of 769 people has not changed since September 26, and officials have yet to address the discrepancy.

The kingdom rebuffed criticism from its regional rival Iran and efforts by other countries to join a probe into the deaths.

Saudi's King Salman ordered an investigation into the tragedy almost immediately, yet few details have been made public since and hundreds of pilgrims remain missing.

The new count by the Associated Press agency is based on state media reports and officials' comments from 36 of the over 180 countries that sent citizens to the hajj.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency has not mentioned the investigation into the disaster since October 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 2 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.

Incidents during the Hajj:

  • September 2015: At least 717 killed and hundreds injured in crush outside Mecca

  • January 2006: 364 pilgrims were killed in a stampede at the entrance to a bridge leading to the stoning site in Mina, outside Mecca

  • February 2004: 251 pilgrims were trampled to death during the stoning ritual

  • February 2003: 14 Muslim pilgrims were crushed to death performing the stoning ritual

  • March 2001: 35 pilgrims killed in stampede

  • April 1998: Around 180 pilgrims were trampled to death when panic erupted after several fell off an overpass at al-Jamarat

  • April 1997: 343 pilgrims were killed and 1,500 injured in a tent fire at the overcrowded Mina camp. At a result, the tents are now fireproof and gas cooking cylinders are banned

  • May 1994: Around 270 were killed in a stampede

  • June 1990: 1,426 killed in a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel leading out from Mecca towards Mina and the Plains of Arafat

  • July 1989: Two bombs exploded, killing one and wounding over a dozen others. Saudi Arabia later convicted 16 Kuwaiti Shia Muslims of planting the bombs, and beheaded them in public

  • July 1987: Over 400 killed during clashes between Saudi security forces and Iranian demonstrators in Mecca

  • December 1975: A fire in a tent city at Mina killed around 200 people. The fire was reportedly started by an exploding gas tank

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