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SAUDI ARABIA - Feb. 1 - Stampede Kills 244 Pilgrims.

A hajj stampede kills 244 and wounds an equal number of pilgrims during the ritual stoning of Satan. The stampede, during a peak event of the annual Muslim pilgrimage, lasted about half an hour. Hajj Minister Iyad Madani later said: "All precautions were taken to prevent such an incident, but this is God's will. Caution isn't stronger than fate". (The annual hajj, which began on Jan. 29, climaxed on Jan. 31 as more than 2m Muslim pilgrims listened to Saudi Arabia's top Wahhabi theologian, Grand Mufti Abdel Aziz Aal Al Shaikh denounce terrorists, calling them an affront to Islam. But he defended Wahhabism's strict interpretation of the faith. He said in his sermon there were those who claimed to be holy warriors, but were shedding Muslim blood and destabilising the nation. "Is it holy war to shed Muslim blood? Is it holy war to shed the blood of non-Muslims given sanctuary in Muslim lands? Is it holy war to destroy the possession of Muslims?". He said their actions gave enemies an excuse to criticise Muslim countries.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Date:Feb 7, 2004
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