RIYADH, July 2, (AFP): Eighteen pilgrims have been injured in a stampede near Islam’s holiest site, Saudi media reported on Saturday, as the kingdom continues to review safety after a deadly crush during last year’s Hajj.
The incident happened on Friday night near the Grand Mosque in Makkah, the Al-Riyadh newspaper said, as Muslims gathered in large numbers to mark the Night of Destiny, one of the high points of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. All the injured were treated at the scene and none required admission to hospital, the newspaper cited a health official as saying. Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flock to Makkah to carry out the lesser Umra pilgrimage during Ramadan — especially during its last 10 days. They include the Night of Destiny, when the angel Gabriel is believed to have given the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the verses of the Holy Quran. The incident comes as Saudi authorities continue to unveil new safety measures for this year’s Hajj in September.
A crush at last year’s Hajj killed more than 2,000 pilgrims in the worst disaster to ever strike the annual ritual. According to figures from foreign officials, at least 2,297 pilgrims died. Saudi Arabia issued a death toll of 769. Newspapers reported on Friday that, among new security measures, Hajj pilgrims this year will have to wear an electronic safety bracelet to store their personal information, including address and medical records. The Hajj and Umra pilgrimages bring millions of Muslims to the holy places in Saudi Arabia every year.