15:27 GMT +320 September 2019
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    Muslim pilgrim prays on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia

    Deadly Haj Stampede Near Mecca Caused by Colliding Crowds of Pilgrims

    © AP Photo / Mosa'ab Elshamy
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    The fatal stampede that killed hundreds of worshipers near Mecca in Saudi Arabia on Thursday had been caused by two crowds of pilgrims colliding, the country's interior ministry spokesman, Mansour Turki, said.

    CAIRO (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, over 700 people were killed and some 860 others were injured after a crush occurred in the Mina Valley near Mecca, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had gathered to celebrate the Muslim religious holiday of Eid al-Adha.

    “According to preliminary data, the cause of the tragedy is the collision at the intersection of two pilgrims’ flows moving through streets 204 and 223,” Turki said at a press conference.

    Earlier, Saudi Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih said that the stampede occurred because the pilgrims infringed on the rules of the celebration that were drawn up by the Saudi authorities.

    Mina valley is the site of a traditional "stoning-of-the-devil" ritual, performed as part of the annual Haj pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia. It is considered a dangerous event due to the enormous crowds that often produce bottlenecks around the holy site.

    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.

    Related:

    US Expresses Condolences Over Deadly Stampede in Saudi Arabia - White House
    Main Cause of Deadly Stampede Near Mecca Revealed
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    Hajj, casualties, stampede, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
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