Saudi hajj stampede death toll exceeds 2,400

Saudi hajj stampede death toll exceeds 2,400
A new count shows at least 2,411 pilgrims were killed in the hajj crush in Saudi Arabia in September, triple the figure admitted by officials.
3 min read
11 December, 2015
The latest count is three times the number admitted by officials [Getty]

The deadly stampede that took place in September during the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia killed at least 2,411 pilgrims, a new Associated Press count shows.

The latest death toll is three times the number of deaths acknowledged by the kingdom three months later.

The AP figures establish the 24 September crush at Mina as the deadliest in the history of the annual pilgrimage. It occurred shortly after a fatal crane collapse in Mecca.

Saudi Arabia rebuffed criticism from its regional Shia rival Iran and efforts by other countries to join a probe into the deaths. And while King Salman ordered an investigation into the tragedy almost immediately, few details have been made public since.

The AP count is based on state media reports and officials' comments from 36 of the more-than 180 countries that sent citizens to the hajj. Hundreds of pilgrims remain missing.

The official Saudi toll of 769 people killed has not changed since 26 September, and officials there have yet to address the discrepancy.

Infographic: A history of hajj tragedies - click to enlarge [al-Araby al-Jadeed]

The state-run Saudi Press Agency has not mentioned the investigation into the disaster since 19 October, 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 says it has 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.

This year's hajj drew some two million pilgrims, though in recent years it has drawn more than three 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.

The second deadliest hajj incident was a 1990 stampede that killed 1,426 people. The crane collapse on 11 September at Mecca's Grand Mosque, which preceded the Mina disaster, killed 111 people.