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4 Chinese among 362 haj stampede fatalities
By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-14 05:20

About 2.5 million pilgrims from all over the world attended this year's haj, which ended on Thursday.

Although Saudi Arabia blamed unruly pilgrims on Friday for the crush, many Muslims said better security could have prevented the worst disaster to befall the ritual in 16 years.

The pilgrims were crushed on the last day of the haj at the disaster-prone Jamarat Bridge in Mina, a narrow valley, as they jostled to perform a stoning ritual in the early afternoon.

"The state has made every effort and done everything it should," the kingdom's top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, said on state television, accusing pilgrims of being disorderly.

Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, the kingdom's interior minister, also blamed pilgrims who defied the rules and carried their belongings with them and ignored advice to perform the ritual throughout the day.

Many pilgrims insist on following the prophet Mohammad's example of stoning after noon prayers instead of staggering the ritual throughout the day as some clerics recommend.

Agencies contributed to the story

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