At least 244 people were killed and over 400 injured outside Mecca in a stampede Thursday, as hundreds of thousands of Muslims participated in a ritual in the city of Mina. Over two million Muslims are in Mecca on pilgrimage this week, celebrating the Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha.
The incident occurred during the “stoning of the devil” ritual, in which Muslims throw stones at a pillar, symbolizing the devil.
Officials are trying to determine how the stampede originated. According to Mansour al-Turki, head of the Saudi General Security Forces, it was a matter of “panic” as people crossed a bridge where the stones are hurled from. The trampling begins with a small number of people falling, followed by a state of panic and an attempt to escape the crowd, which leads to an increasing number of victims," news agencies quoted him as saying.
It was the worst incident of stampede death in Mecca since 1997, when 340 people were killed in Mina. Then, a fire that broke out caused the stampede.
There have been a spate of incidents in which pilgrims in Mecca were hurt or killed this year. On September 11, a crane toppled onto the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 118 and injuring 394. On September 23, over 200 Muslim pilgrims were trapped inside a train without air conditioning, causing dozens to faint and require hospital treatment.