Hundreds of pilgrims killed in stampede

Jan. 12, 2006 at 11:04 AM
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MINA, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- A stampede Thursday on the final day of the Muslim pilgrimage ceremonies outside Mecca killed at least 345 pilgrims during a stone-throwing rite.

Organizers said as many as 2 million Muslim faithful were participating in the Rami ceremony of casting out the devil by throwing rocks at three pillars, and doctors at the scene said the death toll could rise, the BBC said.

Saudi officials told the news service the death toll was 345.

Despite barriers and many thousands of stewards working on crowd control to prevent a repeat of previous years' stampedes, the throng got out of control.

There were reports the crush began on the last day of the hajj as people began tripping over luggage laid out for the return home.

The incident is the second mishap for the annual festival this year. On Jan. 5, a Mecca hotel housing pilgrims collapsed, killing 76 people.

In 2004, more than 200 pilgrims were trampled to death at the stoning ceremony.

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