- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

MECCA, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 11 (UPI) — At least 14 pilgrims died Tuesday and several others were injured in a stampede during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to holy sites in Saudi Arabia, an official said.

The stampede occurred at Al-Arab Market street, some 1.5 miles from where pilgrims cast pebbles at a column representing Satan.

A crowd of pilgrims, returning from the ritual, collided with another crowd heading for the column, according to Brig. Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad Said of the Control Center for Hajj Affairs.

The pilgrimage to Mecca and other holy sites is one of the five pillars of Islam and incumbent on all Muslims who are able to make it.

Those killed were three Indian women, three men and a woman from Pakistan, two men and a woman from Egypt, an Iranian woman, a Yemeni man and two unidentified pilgrims.

The incident occurred despite extra precautions by the Saudi authorities to prevent the recurrence of mishaps. Last year 35 people died in a stampede and more than 2,500 have been killed since 1987. In 1990, 1,426 died in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel.

Officials put the number of the pilgrims this year at 1,924,242 of whom 1,431,012 came from outside Saudi Arabia.

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