Four Turkish citizens killed in Mecca stampede

Four Turkish citizens killed in Mecca stampede

MECCA, Saudi Arabia - Anadolu Agency
Four Turkish citizens killed in Mecca stampede

Muslim pilgrims and rescuers gather around people who died in Mina, Saudi Arabia during the annual hajj pilgrimage on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. AP Photo

Four Turkish citizens were killed in the huge stampede outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, where some two million people are performing the annual hajj pilgrimage.
According to a statement by the Hajj Administrative Center in Mecca, five Turkish citizens are still considered missing.
At least 753 pilgrims were killed on the morning of Sept. 24 and at least 805 others were injured.

The stampede took place on Street 204 of the camp city at Mina, a few kilometers east of Mecca, where pilgrims stay for several days during the climax of the hajj.   
In a press conference on Sept. 24, the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Mehmet Görmez, said no news had been received about the 13 Turkish pilgrims known to have been in the area of the stampede.      
Although Turkish groups were prohibited from entering that area, a total of 18 Turkish pilgrims were believed to be in the vicinity. Four of those are known to have been killed and five are still missing.

The pilgrimage, the world's largest annual gathering of people, has been the scene of deadly disasters in the past, including stampedes, tent fires and riots. 

The last major incident in haj took place in 2006, when at least 346 pilgrims were killed as they attempted to perform the stoning of the devil at Jamarat. 

However, massive infrastructure upgrades and extensive spending on crowd control technology over the past two decades had made such events far less common. 

Street 204 is one of the two main arteries leading through the camp at Mina to Jamarat, where pilgrims ritually stone the devil by hurling pebbles at three large pillars. 

Reuters reporters in another part of Mina said they could hear police and ambulance sirens, but that roads leading to the site of the disaster had been blocked to prevent a further crowds developing. 

Photographs published on the civil defence Twitter feed showed pilgrims lying on stretchers while emergency workers in high-visibility jackets lifted them into an ambulance. 

It said more than 220 ambulances and 4,000 rescue workers had been sent to the stampede's location to help the wounded. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television channel showed a convoy of ambulances driving through the Mina camp. 

"Work is underway to separate large groups of people and direct pilgrims to alternative routes," the Saudi Civil Defence said on its Twitter account. 

Sept. 24 is also Eid al-Adha. It has traditionally been the most dangerous day of haj because vast numbers of pilgrims attempt to perform rituals at the same time in a single location. 

Two weeks ago 110 people died in Mecca's Grand Mosque when a crane working on an expansion project collapsed during a storm and toppled off the roof into the main courtyard, crushing pilgrims underneath. 

Such disasters are politically sensitive for the kingdom's ruling Al Saud dynasty, which presents itself internationally as the guardians of orthodox Islam and custodians of its holiest places in Mecca and Medina. 

King Salman, like his predecessors, is officially styled "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques". 

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