AP count from Saudi hajj disaster shows over 1,260 killed
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: A crush and stampede last month outside of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca killed at least 1,264 people during the annual hajj pilgrimage to the kingdom, an Associated Press count showed Thursday.
The AP count of dead from the disaster — the worst tragedy to strike the hajj in a quarter-century — is based on tolls offered by 17 countries through their officials or state media broadcasts, saying specifically the deceased were killed Sept. 24 in Mina, near Mecca.
Saudi officials have said their official figure of 769 killed and 934 injured in the disaster remains accurate, though an investigation into its causes is ongoing. Health authorities in the kingdom previously said civil defense officials would be offering any new casualty figures, though no new toll has been released by authorities since Sept. 26.
Authorities have said the disaster in Mina happened as two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, causing hundreds of people to suffocate or be trampled to death.
Shiite power Iran, the Mideast rival of Sunni Saudi Arabia, has blamed the disaster on the kingdom's "mismanagement." It also accused Riyadh of a cover-up, saying the real death toll exceeds 4,700, without providing evidence to support its claim.
Diplomats in Indonesia, Pakistan and India have said Saudi officials gave them some 1,100 photographs of dead from the Mina disaster. Saudi officials say those photographs include pilgrims who died of natural causes at the hajj as well.
Recent Indian paperwork from the disaster also refers to at least "1,957" photographs of the dead in Saudi Arabia, though its consular officials say some bodies were photographed multiple times.
The AP count of the dead includes totals from 17 of the over 180 countries that sent pilgrims to this year's hajj. Iran said it had 465 pilgrims killed, while Egypt had 148 and Indonesia 120.
Others include Pakistan with 89; India 81; Mali 70; Nigeria 64; Bangladesh 63; Cameroon 42; Ethiopia 31; Morocco 27; Algeria 25; Ghana 12; Chad 11; Kenya eight; Senegal five and Turkey with three. Hundreds of pilgrims still remain missing, according to these countries.
In previous years, the hajj has drawn more than 3 million pilgrims without any major incidents and Saudi Arabia has spent billions to prepare for the pilgrimage in recent years. Able-bodied Muslims are required to perform the five-day pilgrimage once in their lifetime, and each year poses a massive logistical challenge for the kingdom.
The crush and stampede was the second disaster to strike Saudi Arabia around the hajj this year. On Sept. 11, a construction crane crashed into Mecca's Grand Mosque, killing at least 111 people.
The deadliest disaster to strike the hajj was in 1990, when a stampede killed 1,426 people at an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to holy sites in Mecca.