Muslim pilgrims throw stones at Jamarat walls, as 150 reported killed in haj crush

Muslim pilgrims throw stones at Jamarat walls during haj, as 150 people are reported killed and 390 injured in a crush outside Mecca.

MINA, NEAR MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA (SEPTEMBER 24, 2015) (REUTERS) – Millions of Muslim pilgrims streamed towards Saudi Arabia’s Jamarat walls on Thursday (September 24), used for the ritual stoning of the devil, one of the main rites of the haj.

Arriving at the walls, pilgrims pelted them with pebbles, which they had picked up the previous night at Muzdalifah, some four kilometres from Mina.

But as the ritual took place, the country’s civil defence said on its Twitter account that 150 people had been killed during a crush outside Mecca.

The report said the number of people injured in the incident outside the Muslim holy city stood at 400.

In past years, the haj has drawn around three million pilgrims. This year and last, Riyadh cut back on numbers – enforced through strict visa rules and a ring of checkpoints around the city – to prevent dangerous overcrowding during expansion works. About 1.4 million have attended this year.

The crashing of a crane into the Grand Mosque during a storm two weeks ago, killing 107, demonstrated the extent of those dangers. But the wider programme of construction over the past 15 years has helped stop repeats of once-common deadly stampedes.

The haj pilgrimage is one of the Muslim faith’s so-called five pillars and a religious duty for all Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime if they are capable.