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A pilgrim throws stones at a pillar representing the devil in Mina, 12 January. (epa)
12 January 2006 -- Saudi Arabia's health minister says that at least 345 people were killed and hundreds others injured during a stampede at the annual hajj pilgrimage.
The crush occurred as tens of thousands of pilgrims were taking part in a stone-throwing ritual that symbolizes their rejection of the devil.
In 2004, some 250 pilgrims were trampled to death performing the same rite, which requires pilgrims to throw stones at pillars on the plain of Mina, near Mecca, a spot where the devil is said to have appeared to Abraham.
The ritual coincides with Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice.
Some 2.5 million Muslims made the hajj pilgrimage this year.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim is obliged to visit Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, at least once in their lives.
(AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)
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THE HAJJ: Every year, Islamic pilgrims converge on the Saudi holy city of Mecca for what is considered to be the world's largest single gathering of human beings -- the annual hajj pilgrimage, the fifth and final pillar of Islam. Hajj literally means "to set out for a place," and every able-bodied Muslim with the means to do so is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime, traditionally after first settling all their wordly affairs...(more)