15:46 GMT +319 September 2019
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    Muslim pilgrims pray on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat during the annual haj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca

    Main Cause of Deadly Stampede Near Mecca Revealed

    © REUTERS / Ahmad Masood
    Middle East
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    The behavior of pilgrims was the main cause of the stampede that killed at least 717 people at the annual Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia earlier on Thursday, Saudi Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih said.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The crush, which left over 800 people injured, took place as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims streamed into the Mina Valley near Mecca to celebrate the Muslim religious holiday of Eid al-Adha.

    The traditional ritual is performed as part of the annual Haj pilgrimages to Mecca. The ritual is considered a dangerous event due to the huge crowds that give rise to bottlenecks in and around the holy site.

    "This incident could have been averted if the pilgrims had followed the instructions," Al-Falih told the Saudi Al Ekhbariya TV channel, adding that many of the pilgrims set out to perform the "stoning-of-the-devil" ritual without observing the schedule established by the organizers.

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Naif ordered the establishment of an investigation commission to determine the reasons behind the deadly stampede, media reported Thursday.

    Over two million people visit Mecca annually to perform Haj, which is an obligation upon every Muslim.

    Mecca has suffered several similar stampede accidents. On July 2, 1990, a crush inside a tunnel from Mecca to Mina claimed the lives of 1,426 pilgrims, remaining the most violent incident to date. The latest major stampede occurred in 2006 killing at least 346 and injuring 289 people.

    Some 4,000 rescuers and over 220 ambulances were sent to handle the tragedy.

    On September 11, a construction crane fell on the Grand Mosque in Mecca killing 107 people.


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