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Death Toll Stands at 363 in Hajj Stampede

  • VOA  News

Officials in Saudi Arabia say the death toll from Thursday's stampede during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca has risen to 363.

The new toll comes as Saudi officials say pilgrims were to blame for the deadly crush on the final day of the sacred hajj rituals.

The victims were crushed when thousands of pilgrims gathered at the Jamarat Bridge in Mina to perform a stoning ritual.

The stampede claimed the lives of Africans, Arabs, Asians and Europeans. (Among the Asians, at least 20 were Afghans, 11 of them Bangladeshis, 27 Indians and 36 Pakistanis.The Saudi Interior Ministry said pilgrims defied rules and carried belongings with them, and some pilgrims tripped over baggage in the rush to perform the ritual.

But some pilgrims said better security could have averted the tragedy.

Saudi authorities redesigned access to the site and deployed 60-thousand security personnel this year in an effort to avoid stampedes.

The stone-throwing ritual has been marred by stampedes in the past, including one that killed 240 pilgrims two years ago.
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