Thursday, December 28, 2006

Muslims begin annual hajj

From the Seattle Times, it is the beginning of the annual hajj pilgrimage for Muslims with 3 million expected this year.
More than 30,000 police and other security forces have fanned out to help smooth traffic around ritual sites that have been plagued with deadly stampedes. More than 360 people were killed during last year's hajj in a stampede at Mina during a ritual symbolizing the stoning of the devil, sparked when some pilgrims in the crowd stumbled over luggage.

360 dead, three and a half times more dead during a religious pilgrimage than the number of U.S. soldiers in a war zone in the deadliest of months of fighting in Iraq.

Problems are so common that Wikipedia has an entire page of "Incidents during the Hajj":
On July 2, 1990, a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel (Al-Ma'aisim tunnel) leading out from Mecca towards Mina and the Plains of Arafat led to the deaths of 1,426 pilgrims.

On May 23, 1994, a stampede killed at least 270 pilgrims at the stoning of the Devil ritual.

On April 9, 1998, at least 118 pilgrims were trampled to death and 180 injured in an incident on Jamarat Bridge.

On March 5, 2001, 35 pilgrims were trampled to death in a stampede during the stoning of the Devil ritual.

On February 11, 2003, the stoning of the Devil ritual claimed 14 pilgrims' lives.

On February 1, 2004, 251 pilgrims were killed and another 244 injured in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina.

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