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Saudi minister: Pilgrims may not have followed instructions

Police vehicles drive past pilgrims on a road in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca

Saudi Arabia’s heath minister said on Friday a crush that killed more than 700 people at the haj pilgrimage may have been caused by pilgrims failing to follow instructions from authorities shepherding the world’s largest annual gathering of people.

In a statement posted on the ministry’s website, the minister, Khalid al-Falih, said an investigation would be conducted rapidly into the worst disaster to strike the annual haj pilgrimage for 25 years. At least 863 others were injured.

“The investigations into the incident of the stampede that took place today in Mina, which was perhaps because some pilgrims moved without following instructions by the relevant authorities, will be fast and will be announced as has happened in other incidents,” the statement said.

Falih said the injured were being transferred to hospitals in Mecca and if necessary on other parts of the country.

Saudi King Salman said he had ordered a review of haj plans after the disaster, in which two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometres east of Mecca, on their way to performing the “stoning of the devil” ritual at Jamarat.

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